What is 'Blue Wall of Silence'? Derek Chauvin trial saw cops defy unspoken rule and testify against colleague

During the Derek Chauvin murder trial for the murder of George Floyd, the wall seems to be crumbling down as police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department aren't shying from testifying against him


                            What is 'Blue Wall of Silence'? Derek Chauvin trial saw cops defy unspoken rule and testify against colleague
Minneapolis Police chief Medaria Arradondo testified against former police officer Derek Chauvin, claiming that he defied his police training by continuing to keep his knee on George Floyd's neck (Getty Images/Twitter)

Police officers have an informal and unspoken rule among themselves - not to report on their colleagues' errors, misconduct and crimes, including police brutality. The so-called "Blue Wall of Silence" has reportedly often been a hurdle in investigating and prosecuting police officers accused of wrongdoings. But during the Derek Chauvin murder trial for the murder of George Floyd, the wall seems to be crumbling down as police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department aren't shying from testifying against him. 

The longest-serving police officer in the department, Lt Richard Zimmerman, and Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief, are making history by testifying in court against one of their own - breaking the age-old wall of silence that protects the police. 

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Medaria Arradondo

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is testifying against one of his former officers Derek Chauvin (Twitter/ @skepticalbrotha and Getty Images)

On Monday, April 5, 2021, the trial saw police chief Arradondo testifying against the former police officer, claiming that he defied his own police training by continuing to keep his knee on Floyd's neck before he died on May 25, 2020. Arradondo, who is Minneapolis' first Black police chief, put it plainly when he said, "In no way, shape, or form is what Officer Chauvin did part of our training, ethics, or values."

Lt Richard Zimmerman

Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, testified last week that Chauvin's use of force against Floyd was "totally unnecessary."

A protester holds a sign with a photo of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during demonstrations following the death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Chauvin was taken into custody for Floyd's death. Chauvin has been accused of kneeling on Floyd's neck as he pleaded with him about not being able to breathe. Floyd was pronounced dead a short while later. Chauvin and 3 other officers, who were involved in the arrest, were fired from the police department after a video of the arrest was circulated. (Getty Images)

“Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled for,” Lieutenant Zimmerman, reportedly said. Leading the department's homicide unit, Zimmerman had joined the department in 1985. He also said that there was no reason to use “top-tier deadly force.”

Sgt David Pleoger

Chauvin’s former supervisor, Sgt David Pleoger, was the first law enforcement officer to take the stand. The retired 21-year veteran of the force testified that Chauvin could have - and should have - removed his knee as soon as Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground. "When Mr Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended his restraint," he said in court. 

Why this is a big deal?

Over the last few days of Chauvin's trial, many high-ranking police officers have taken to the stand to testify against him. According to reports, law enforcement officers have repeatedly testified that the former police officer should never have kneeled on Floyd’s neck, and certainly not for more than 9 minutes - particularly when he was not actively resisting. In addition to that, they also said that Chauvin violated their training, department policies, and moral promise to serve. 

If you notice the designations of the police officers who have testified, they are all high-ranking officers - all breaking the so-called Blue Wall of Silence. 

Both Arradondo and Lt Johnny Mercil, who is a 29-year veteran of the department who trained Chauvin, and testified Tuesday, confirmed that according to the Minneapolis Police Department training, officers can’t use a neck restraint on someone who’s "passively resisting."

“That action is not de-escalation,” Arradondo said in Hennepin County Court Monday. “I absolutely agree that it violates our policy. That is not part of our policy, that is not what we teach, and that shouldn’t be condoned.”

What is the Blue Wall of Silence? 

An unspoken code among police officers. 

For instance, if and when officers are questioned about a certain incident of alleged misconduct involving another police officer, particularly during the course of an official inquiry, while following the code, the officer being questioned would perjure themselves by feigning ignorance of the other's wrongdoing. It is reported that many officers who follow the code may participate in some acts of alleged police corruption and misconduct during their career for personal matters or in order to protect or support fellow officers

Speaking to Vice, Daniel Medwed, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University’s School of Law, said, "There are professional, practical, and psychological reasons why that blue wall of silence exists. To protect the group as a whole from professional attack, and psychologically, to think, ‘Hey, we wear the white hats; one of our own couldn’t have done something wrong.”

Chauvin has been charged with "second- and-third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter". During cross-examination of the law enforcement witnesses, attorney Eric Nelson reportedly pointed out that the Minneapolis PD even makes room for discretion: The use of force policy states that incidents shouldn’t be judged with “20/20 hindsight.”

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