September 17, 2021

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Use-of-Force Expert Says Derek Chauvin’s Actions Were ‘Justified’ – The New York Times

3 min read

Barry Brodd, a former police officer and use-of-force expert, testified for the defense that Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd was justified — countering two weeks of prosecution witnesses who argued the opposite.

“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, and was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement, in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” he said.

Mr. Brodd, who has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience and specializes in police and civilian defense cases, referenced Graham v. Connor, a 1989 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled that an officer’s use of force must be “objectively reasonable,” but that “police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

Officers must respond to imminent threats, Mr. Brodd said, which require a police officer to have a “reasonable fear that somebody is going to strike you, stab you, shoot you.”

To judge use-of-force cases, Mr. Brodd said he considered whether an officer had justification to detain a person, how the person responded to the officer — with compliance or varying degrees of resistance — and whether the officer’s use of force correlated with the level of resistance.

Mr. Brodd said he agreed with the defense that Mr. Floyd’s death did not qualify as a use of deadly force. He said that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was appropriate for the level of resistance from Mr. Floyd, and that the officers would have been justified in using even more force.

“Police officers don’t have to fight fair,” he said. “They’re allowed to overcome your resistance by going up a level.”

Mr. Brodd said that officers had used force when they pulled Mr. Floyd from the police car and onto the ground, but that he did not consider keeping Mr. Floyd in a prone position, with his wrists handcuffed behind his back, to be a use of force. When questioned later by the prosecution, he amended this claim, saying the position and the officers on top of Mr. Floyd could have caused him pain and therefore qualified as use of force.

The prosecution showed video footage of Mr. Floyd telling officers, “Everything hurts.”

The question of whether the officers should have moved Mr. Floyd onto his side to enable him to breathe easier was also at the center of Mr. Brodd’s testimony.

While in the prone position, Mr. Floyd said repeatedly that he could not breathe. Though Mr. Chauvin had been trained to move suspects onto their side to prevent “positional asphyxia,” or difficulty breathing while handcuffed in a prone position, Mr. Brodd said they were justified in keeping Mr. Floyd on his stomach even after he stopped resisting.

He argued that it would have been difficult to move Mr. Floyd onto his side because he was lying up against the police car, there were other vehicles driving on the street, and bystanders were distracting officers.

“Those were relatively valid reasons to keep him in the prone,” he said, adding that if someone is shouting, he believes they can breathe well enough — a claim that medical experts previously testified is not always a good indication of whether a person is getting enough oxygen.

During cross-examination, Mr. Brodd agreed with the prosecution that use of force must be reasonable throughout an interaction, and should escalate or diminish based on how actively a suspect is resisting. A reasonable police officer, Mr. Brodd agreed, would take into account whether a suspect had stopped breathing or no longer had a pulse.

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