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Minneapolis police chief says George Floyd's family will inspire his reform efforts

CNN's Sara Sidner speaks to Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo about his resolve to reform the police department following the death of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd, who died while in police custody.

Posted: Jun 15, 2020 3:57 AM


Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo says a "gut wrenching" meeting with the family of George Floyd reaffirmed his resolve to make reforms within the department.

"I looked them in the eye and I said, 'I'm sorry.'" He told them that Floyd's death was not in vain, the chief said Wednesday.

"The Floyd family will lead me forward in the days ahead, in the weeks ahead for this important work," Arradondo told CNN.

Hours after announcing that the department was withdrawing from contract negotiations with the police union, Arradondo said Floyd's death set his agency back and he's committed to "transformative change."

"There are certainly parts within the policing agencies across this country that are broken and in (the) Minneapolis police department there are areas that we must change and must get better," he said.

Chief wants review of police contract

Earlier Wednesday, Arradondo said he is immediately withdrawing from contract negotiations with the police union -- the Minneapolis Police Officer Federation -- in an attempt to facilitate change within the department.

He is set to bring in advisers to review how the contract can be restructured to "provide greater community transparency and more flexibility for true reform."

Mayor Jacob Frey applauded the move to suspend negotiations.

"We don't just need a new contract with the police," Frey said in a statement. "We need a new compact between the people of Minneapolis and the people trusted to protect and serve -- and we need to go farther than we ever have in making sweeping structural reform."

Arradondo said he wants to shape a "new paradigm of peacemaking" and will be able to have a police department that the community views as "legitimate, trusting, and working with their best interest at heart."

In addition, the department will use data analysis on performance data to find early warning signs of misconduct. The chief said that data and automation will allow the department to intervene with officers engaged in problematic behavior.

Arradondo said that he recognizes parts of the police department are broken and brought attention to it several years ago.

"But I did not abandon this department then, and I will not abandon this department now," he said.

After members of the Minneapolis City Council said they intend to defund and dismantle the police department in the wake of Floyd's killing, Arradondo encouraged officials to be thoughtful.

"I think that any plans or any conversations about defunding or dismantling have to be thoughtful, they have to be mindful, they have to be based in fact," Arradondo told CNN. "If it's totally driven by emotion, lives could be at stake as well."

Lack of experience is no excuse in Floyd's killing, chief says

The chief has rejected the idea that the two officers who lacked experience on his force are less culpable in Floyd's killing, saying Floyd "was expecting humanity" that he did not get that day.

The four officers on scene when Floyd was killed on May 25 have all been fired and charged criminally, and Arradondo has said they were "complicit" in his killing.

Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with second-degree murder, and the three other officers on scene -- Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng -- have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

"The policies that I put out for our department, those are not guided in years of service," he said. "I don't put policies that you should only react or respond if you're a two-year member or a five-year member or a 10-year member. If policies or subculture get in the way, then I expect and I demand one's humanity to rise above that."

Chauvin was on the police force for 18 years, but Lane and Kueng were rookies. Lane had been on the police force for four days when Floyd died and was "doing everything he thought he was supposed to do as a four-day police officer," his attorney Earl Gray said. Kueng was on his third shift as an officer, his lawyer said.

But Arradondo said that lack of experience did not absolve them of their responsibility.

"When I helped craft the duty to intervene and duty to report (policies) in 2016, it does not signify if you have two days on or 20 years on. We expect you to, whether it's verbally and physically, to call out for help and intervene. Mr. Floyd was certainly expecting that," he said.

"I don't believe that during Mr. Floyd's encounter with the officers that he knew the years of service those employees had on, but he was expecting humanity that day, and it was not (provided)."

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