Restraint Case From 2010 Echoes Method Used To Hold George Floyd The department settled for $3 million and offered training for officers in how to restrain people in custody more safely in the 2010 case.
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Minneapolis Police Were Sued A Decade Ago In Similar Restraint Case

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Minneapolis Police Were Sued A Decade Ago In Similar Restraint Case

Minneapolis Police Were Sued A Decade Ago In Similar Restraint Case

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Charging documents against Officer Chauvin say an autopsy of George Floyd show that the effects of being restrained by police likely contributed to his death. In recent years, many police departments have trained officers to be alert to the risks of restraining people facedown like this. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the Minneapolis Police Department has been here before.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Ten years ago, a report of a 28-year-old black man acting strangely brought Minneapolis officers to a YMCA. There, they subdued an agitated David Smith, tasing him then cuffing him facedown on the hardwood of a basketball court.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Unintelligible.)

KASTE: One officer captured the scene on a personal camera. They kept him facedown, a knee to the back, even after he stopped responding.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: You gonna (ph) talk to us (unintelligible)? Hey, you gonna talk to us? What's wrong with you?

KASTE: He died a few days later. Minneapolis settled for $3 million. Bob Bennett was the lawyer on the case, and he says the Minneapolis Police Department also promised at the time to do more training for officers in how to restrain people safely. That's why it was such a shock to him to see this video of what happened to George Floyd on Monday.

BOB BENNETT: I actually thought I was watching the same activity. The parallels are so stark.

KASTE: Bennett assumed the Minneapolis department did the extra training, but now he can't be sure. There has been more emphasis nationally on teaching cops about the dangers of restraining suspects facedown, especially in the years after the death of Eric Garner, whose words - I can't breathe - became a rallying cry for police reform. A lot of police are on Twitter and other social media right now talking about how they were trained never to do what was done to Floyd. Jack Ryan, a retired police captain who trains officers around the country, posted this video reminder for officers.

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JACK RYAN: We ought to have stamped - maybe a tattoo on the back of our hand - that as soon as the person is subdued or restrained, then get off them. Get them into an upright position or on their side to facilitate breathing.

KASTE: But Ryan says this message has been muddied in recent years because of dueling studies about positional asphyxia. That's the idea that holding a suspect in a certain position too long can smother him. Some courts have rejected this idea, and one police academy trainer told NPR that he tells his cadets that positional asphyxia has been, quote, "debunked." Given this debate and the decentralized nature of American policing, there just isn't a clear national rule about this.

SETH STOUGHTON: Part of the problem is a lack of centralized specific guidance. But I don't think that's the entire problem.

KASTE: Seth Stoughton is a former cop. Now, he's at the University of South Carolina Law School, where he specializes in the use of force by police.

STOUGHTON: I think part of the problem is also a very strong cultural resistance to criticizing other cops.

KASTE: He says you can see that in the video from Monday, as an officer stands by and says nothing to the colleague who's pressing his knee into Floyd's neck. Walter Katz, an expert in police oversight and reform, agrees. And what's shocking to him in the video is the officer's apparent indifference to the complaints from bystanders.

WALTER KATZ: People were yelling at him after what he was doing, and he continued to do so. To me, that is not a training issue. To me, that is a reflection of a culture issue.

KASTE: Katz says attitudes like this undermine the effort to reform American police.

KATZ: If there is a belief that some members of the community deserve less dignity than others, these types of things will keep on happening.

KASTE: He thinks as long as there are officers with this mentality, and as long as they feel their colleagues will cover for them, then tactics and training are almost beside the point. Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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