Police accused of wrongdoing can usually count on the blue wall of silence — protection from fellow officers that includes everything from shutting off body cameras to refusing to cooperate with investigators. But that’s not the case with Derek Chauvin, with many colleagues quick to condemn his actions in George Floyd’s death, some even taking the stand against him.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck was “in no way, shape or form” in line with department policy or training. Homicide detective Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified, “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him.”

Chauvin’s former supervisor, retired Sgt. David Ploeger, testified that the force used on Floyd went on too long and should have ended when the Black man was handcuffed and stopped resisting. An inspector acquainted with Chauvin for two decades and an officer who said the defendant spent a day as her training officer took the witness stand as well.

The criticism didn’t start at trial. Fourteen officers, including Zimmerman, signed an open letter last year saying Chauvin “failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life. This is not who we are.”

It’s unclear whether officers are becoming more willing to call out a colleague, or if the extraordinary circumstances of this particular case are at play. While police agencies across the country have instituted reforms that promote more ethical behavior, some experts say the unblinking video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck as the dying man pleads for air is the impetus for fellow officers to stand against Chauvin.

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“I sincerely wish I could see a crumbling of the blue wall, but sadly I do not see that,” said Bill Hall, a former Justice Department mediator who handled brutality cases, and a political science adjunct professor at Webster University in Missouri.

The damning police testimony — and the public criticism — against Chauvin is coming from the top of the department, not patrol officers. All 14 signers of the June letter were ranked as sergeant or higher. Hall said supervisory police officials have incentive to show the fault lies with the officer, not with their policies and procedures.

Still, in June, the head of the Minneapolis police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, a usually militant defender of officers, agreed that Chauvin’s firing was warranted, calling what was shown on camera “horrific.” Meanwhile, the three other officers charged in Floyd’s death, fired soon after and facing their own trials in August, are likely to blame the far more senior Chauvin for what happened.

The number of Chauvin’s Minneapolis colleagues who have turned on him is telling, said Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“We don’t usually see a dozen or more police officers from the very same agency come out opposed to the actions taken by a police officer,” Rosenfeld said.

It’s a far cry from the code of silence that has surrounded cases of police brutality and killings for so long in so …read more

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