After multiple sidebar conversations between the prosecution and defense, retired Minneapolis Police Department Sgt. David Pleoger was allowed to give his opinion on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s deadly use of force against George Floyd last spring.
Floyd died after Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck down onto the street and didn’t release Floyd even after he appeared to lose consciousness.
Pleoger, a 27-year veteran of the force, was Chauvin’s supervisor at the time of Floyd’s death. He told prosecutor Steve Schleicher before the court on Thursday afternoon that, after watching body camera footage of Floyd’s arrest, he believed the officers involved could have stopped restraining Floyd so severely once he stopped resisting.
Chauvin’s use of force has been prosecutors’ main focus throughout the trial, which began with witness testimony this week.
Pleoger testified in part:
SCHLEICHER: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?
SCHLEICHER: What is it?
PLEOGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.
SCHLEICHER: And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resisting?
Pleoger also told the court that Chauvin did not inform him right away about the type of restraint he had used on Floyd or how long he’d had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The police sergeant said he had known Chauvin around 12 years at the time of Floyd’s death. Both men had been trained by the Minneapolis police department.
An ambulance arrived to take Floyd away and treat him for cardiac arrest after he spent more than nine minutes lying on the pavement under Chauvin’s knee.
Pleoger described later taking control of the situation, directing two officers to stay behind with Floyd’s vehicle as he went with two other officers ― including Chauvin ― to Hannepin Medical Center, where Floyd was being treated. A nurse told Pleoger that Floyd was faring poorly.
During Schleicher’s questioning, however, defense attorney Eric Nelson repeatedly objected to any direct queries regarding Chauvin’s use of force, arguing that Pleoger did not have enough information to make a judgment. Judge Peter Cahill eventually sided with the prosecution, allowing the retired sergeant to respond.
The prosecution also pointed to Minneapolis Police Department rules stating that officers had the option of using a hogtie method to restrain Floyd. Nelson argued that this method would have delayed Floyd from receiving medical care when an ambulance arrived.
Pleoger spoke during an often-emotional week of witness testimony in the criminal trial against Chauvin, who faces three homicide-related charges and a potential sentence of 15 years behind bars.
An emergency medical technician who helped treat Floyd at the scene also criticized officers’ conduct, saying there was no reason they could not have tried to help Floyd after he appeared to lose consciousness.