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George Floyd’s assassination triggered a movement. The officers standing next to him when he died also triggered change.

The indignation at Derek Chauvin was evident from the moment the video was dropped to his knee in George Floyd's throat.

Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder in April, was faced with intolerance, injustice and police brutality, and his actions led to worldwide protests against these ills.

But the passivity of the three colleagues who stood by when he killed Floyd has similarly spurred change.

The lack of response that day from former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane - whose federal trial begins this week on charges of violating Floyd's civil rights - has prompted several states to codify through legislation or policy , which officers have a duty to step in if they witness a colleague using excessive or unauthorized force.

As of October, at least 18 states required officers to intervene or required law enforcement to adopt policies that imposed such a duty on officers, and at least 17 states required officers to report when another officer uses excessive force, Josh said. Parker, a senior lawyer. at the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law.

Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington are among the states that have enacted comprehensive force laws after the Floyd assassination, Parker said.

The Massachusetts Act, an Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth, allows for the decertification of officers who do not intervene "to prevent the use of excessive or prohibited force by another officer."

A similar measure in Maryland makes it a misdemeanor for an officer to "knowingly and intentionally" fail to attempt to stop or prevent a colleague from using excessive force, which can be punished with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and / or a fine at $ 10,000.

Manka Dhingra, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 5066 passed by the Washington Senate in February, said the legislation was inspired by the deaths of people of color in the hands of police, including Floyd, 46, a black man detained on the ground lying position until he died.

Kueng knelt on Floyd's back and Lane kept his legs down, according to evidence presented at Chauvin's state court case. Thao stood nearby, keeping spectators at a distance; some of them shouted at Chauvin to get off Floyd's throat.

In the federal case, Thao and Kueng are accused of not preventing Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd and for failing to help him. Lane, who was filmed twice on body camera video and asked if Floyd should be turned on his side, is only charged with the latter. The men will also be prosecuted later on state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Chauvin was convicted in April of state murder and manslaughter, and last month pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd's civil rights.

Dhingra said the spectator video of Floyd's last moments was "terrifying", as was "the officers' standing and not intervening" as their department had a duty to intervene at the time.

"I think many law enforcement agencies will tell you that it's part of the policy," said Dhingra, a former prosecutor. "The bottom line is that this is not happening. And so much of this is about changing cultures."

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Parker said the deaths of Floyd and Eric Garner in New York - whose dying prayers included "I can not breathe" - could have been avoided if other officers had intervened.

"States and law enforcement agencies should use every tool in their toolbox to ensure that this tragic story does not recur. Imposing on police officers a duty to intervene is one such tool," he said.

While Dhingra and other police experts said it is difficult to measure the success of such policies just yet, the state of Washington "has had a decline in officer-involved shootings in the last year," Dhingra said, as she said she believes can be credited to. partly to this measure.

Alexander Shalom, the chief superintendent of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, said: "We should not shy away from solutions that are not complete but are still useful. And this, I think, qualifies as exactly that."

Not everyone sees the value in the laws.

Retired Officer De Lacy Davis said he believes the establishment of a legal duty to intervene "is nothing more than a political response to erroneous accountability in the police system" which will not be sufficient to topple the so-called Blue Wall of silence that keeps officers from reporting colleagues' offenses, criminal or otherwise.

Davis said he reported colleagues for excessive force several times during his 20-year career in East Orange, New Jersey, Police Department. In a 1996 case, he said, he witnessed a colleague assaulting a civilian in a municipal building. The colleague was not charged and ultimately kept his job.

"It was very difficult to do," Davis said. "But I did."

In addition to targeting officers who are witnessing power and not reporting it, he said, organizations should also go after senior officers who fail to respond to complaints.

But those who support duty-to-seize-related policies, such as Shalom, oppose putting incentives in the right place.

Shalom said he agreed with Davis that "as a matter of general morality" people have a duty to intervene, but that if it is not an explicit job requirement, police officers can not be held responsible for failing to do so. .

"They can be morally guilty," he said. "But the position we would be in if we did not have it embedded in a policy of use of force or some departmental policy is that one could have a case where an officer failed to intervene when they clearly should have done. "where the Department sought to take disciplinary action against the officer for their failure to protect a person they had sworn to protect, and they would not be able to do so because the officer did not violate policy."

There is precedent for the latest wave of laws.

Scott Thomson, who was chief of police in Camden, New Jersey, from 2008 to 2019, included a duty to intervene in a new policy of use of force he presented to his officers in 2019 with the help of the police project. It was investigated by and obtained support from the ACLU in New Jersey.

For such policies to be effective, they must have teeth, said Parker, an expert in law and policy on the use of force.

"Agency policies and state laws should require agencies to impose discipline, up to and including termination of employment, against officers who violate the duty to intervene or report excessive force," he said. "States should also consider making it a felony for an officer who knows or is aware of a significant risk that another officer is using or is using excessive force and fails to intervene despite having the ability and the ability to do so safely. "

Parker and Shalom said that for such policies to work, officers need to be trained in when to intervene and what constitutes excessive power; otherwise the duty to intervene could be quite limited.

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