The trial of Derek Chauvin, though short on Friday, May 2, was sweet. It was sweet with the sound of the Blue Wall of Silence cracking even further. Friday was the day the ‘Blue’ came out to testify that unnecessary force was used in the name of #justiceforgeorgefloyd.
The Blue Wall of Silence makes for good TV. In any one week we can watch a number of reruns where a good cop helps Internal Affairs or wears a wire and then finds himself with a gun to his face – the idea of ratting on another cop going against the unwritten laws of the “police family”. That’s what makes the difference between the idea of “good” police versus “bad” police.
What is the Blue Wall of Silence?
It’s a wall and like any other wall it divides. But this wall serves to conquer, too. It conquers its own through intimidation and fear. And it conquers the very people it pledged to serve. The Blue Wall of Silence was on a fault line the evening Derek Chauvin’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck. The three other police officers who stood by were trying to keep it from crumbling by barring desperate neighborhood folks from helping a dying man. The problem was the walls kept tumbling because of modern technology – but not because of the police cams as much as the video of Darnella Frazier which later went viral for all the world to see. https://darkmattersmag.com/business/a-modern-day-lynching-the-case-for-first-degree-murder-for-derek-chauvin/
It may never be the same. And it shouldn’t be. One of my hashtag heroes – Bill Maher – I have several – always puts it just the right way as he did last year in his segment “New Rules” :
The Blue Wall of Silence dates back to the mid to late 1800s and that may be part of the problem. Violence and systemic racism were ingrained from the start.
“The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was known for using police officers to violently end strikes. Many members of the Ku Klux Klan were police officers who protected each other when conducting racist acts. This later gave rise to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gave new protections to the victims who had long suffered discriminatory policing.”
Soon after there were Supreme Court cases “that gave new force both to individual privacy rights as well as to curbs upon Police Power: highly influential cases resulted in the strengthening of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable Search and Seizure, evidentiary rules forbidding the use at trial of evidence tainted by unconstitutional police actions, and the establishment of the so-called Miranda Warning requiring officers to advise detained suspects of their constitutional rights.”
These cases criminalized officers who did not have “the proper paperwork when conducting a search, who were caught falsifying paperwork, or committing perjury”.
The “wall” or “cop culture” looks the other way on police that do the wrong thing. It’s one of those insidious things a rookie cop “learns” at the police academy like how to shoot.
“Police officers are more likely to cover up certain kinds of errors by colleagues. One study showed that excessive use of force was the crime most commonly shielded by the code. Two studies suggest that some police feel that the code is applicable in cases of “illegal brutality or bending of the rules in order to protect colleagues from criminal proceedings,” but not those of illegal actions with an “acquisitive motive.””
So the cops would rather cover-up for another cop beating the shit out someone than a cop on the take for buying a boat?
That is what makes the testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Friday, April 2 so pivotal. Derek Chauvin is not on trial for taking money to buy a car, boat or condo; he is on trial for kneeing the last breath out of a handcuffed man who was not a threat to his person or the three other police on the scene. On Friday, April 2 the police testified against Derek Chauvin.
The highest ranking police officer in the Minneapolic police department, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, “calls the officers’ use of force against George Floyd on May 25 “totally unnecessary.” Plural.
“Just uncalled for,” he added. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger.”
“Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the department’s homicide unit, said Mr. Chauvin’s actions violated police policy.”
The defense tried to soften the blow as is their job. But the damage was done: a bandaid on a broken arm is still a broken arm.
“During cross-examination, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, mentioned that his client kneeling on Floyd’s neck was a practice he called “holding for EMS” because “they are more capable to deal with whatever the situation is.”
“Nelson argued that sometimes people are held in a restrained position until paramedics arrive on the scene to administer medical treatment.”
“When prosecutors had their turn to question Zimmerman, the lieutenant confirmed that just because police are “holding for EMS,” it does not excuse an officer from providing medical attention to someone in custody.”
Zimmerman testified that the use of handcuffs restrict the breathing further.
“One thing that officers learn about the effect of handcuffs, Zimmerman said, is that once an individual has had their hands cuffed behind their back, “it stretches the muscles back through your chest, and it makes it more difficult to breathe.”
“Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up. You need to get them off their chest,” he said. “Because of, as I mentioned earlier, your muscles are pulling back when you’re handcuffed, and when you’re laying on your chest, that’s restricting your breathing even more.”
Listen to Lt. Zimmerman’s testimony here:
If not to testify as he did Lt. Zimmerman might otherwise have perjured himself. Last year he condemned the act. So there are good guys. But he had to because it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.
“Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled for,” said Lieutenant Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985. He was one of a group of 14 veteran police officers who published a public letter last June condemning the actions of Mr. Chauvin. The officers said the letter was representative of the opinion of hundreds of police officers. “This is not who we are,” they wrote.”
In other police testimony Friday morning opened with Minneapolis police Sgt. Jon Edwards, a patrol sergeant working the overnight shift in the 3rd precinct, who is currently on leave. Edwards had received a call at the start of his shift from Chauvin’s former supervisor, retired Minneapolis police Sgt. David Ploeger, asking him to report to 38th street and Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis.
“Edwards said Ploeger asked him to report to 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis and make contact with officers there, because the scene “had the potential to be a possible critical incident” due to officer-involved violence.”
“Edwards arrived around 9:35 p.m., wearing his body-worn camera. Under questioning from prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Edwards said he saw then-officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng in their patrol vehicle across the street from Cup Foods. He told them to turn on their body-worn cameras and put up crime scene tape around the area where police had been working.”
“Edwards told Lane and Kueng to leave their belongings in their squad vehicle. Afterward, he said, a team from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension told him they would take both the police vehicle and Floyd’s SUV into custody.”
Ploeger testified on Thursday, April 1.
“On Thursday, Ploeger told the jury about the phone call he made to Chauvin about the struggle with Floyd. Ploeger was alerted to the situation by 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, who testified Monday that she became alarmed as she watched live video footage of the arrest.”
“When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint,” Ploeger said. If an officer puts his knee on someone’s neck, he said, that position should only be held until the subject is handcuffed and not resisting any longer.”
With hope this testimony from the police is the San Andreas Fault Line of cracks with an ever deepening wedge that will forever send the Blue Wall crumbling and in its place create an environment where the police are not to be feared but to be revered.
Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)