“POLICE ON TRIAL”

The murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020 was arguably a pivotal event in the history of race and policing in America.  As a new documentary from Frontline shows, Chauvin’s encounter with Floyd was not the first time the Minneapolis police officer used excessive force on a Black citizen.  Nor was it the first time that questions were raised around the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department itself.  The film “Police on Trial”, which is supported by The WNET Group’s Exploring Hate initiative – draws on the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and features never-before published police cam video of Derek Chauvin using excessive force years before George Floyd’s death.  And it asks the important question two years on … has anything really changed?  Joining us to discuss the documentary is the director, Mike Shum.

 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD BY DEREK CHAUVIN IN MAY OF 2020 WAS ARGUABLY A PIVOTAL EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF RACE AND POLICING IN AMERICA.

AS A NEW DOCUMENTARY FROM FRONTLINE SHOWS, CHAUVIN'S ENCOUNTER WITH GEORGE FLOYD WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER USED EXCESSIVE FORCE ON A BLACK CITIZEN.

NOR WAS IT THE FIRST TIME THAT QUESTIONS WERE RAISED AROUND THE CULTURE OF THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT ITSELF.

THE FILM IS CALLED 'POLICE ON TRIAL' DRAWS ON PULITZER AWARD WINNING REPORTING FROM THE 'STAR TRIBUNE' AND SHOWS DEREK CHAUVIN USING EXCESSIVE FORCE YEARS BEFORE GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH.

IT ASKS THE IMPORTANT QUESTION, TWO YEARS ON, HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGED?

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

THERE HAD BEEN A LONG HISTORY OF HEAVYHANDED POLICING AND POLICE VIOLENCE.

A SPECIAL INVESTIGATION FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS 'STAR TRIBUNE' AND FRONTLINE.

FROM GEORGE FLOYD, TO THE TRIAL OF DEREK CHAUVIN.

IT'S NOT PART OF OUR TRAIN ORGANIZE ETHICS OR VALUES.

AND THE STRUGGLE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY.

WE SHOULD ABOLISH OUR CURRENT MINNEAPOLIS POLICE SYSTEM.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT ITA IS THE FILM'S DIRECTOR.

MIKE, WELCOME.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME, JACK.

LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING, WHICH IS A QUESTION WE ALWAYS ASK FILMMAKERS, AND THAT IS WHY THIS FILM AND NOW, AND WHAT QUESTIONS WERE YOU LOOKING TO ANSWER?

I MOVED TO THE TWIN CITIES NOT LONG BEFORE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN, SO I'M PRETTY NEW TO THE AREA IN GENERAL, BUT LIVING HERE AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT WHERE I DO LIVE WAS KIND OF FIRST GENERAL QUESTION.

BUT WHEN GEORGE FLOYD WAS KILLED, I THINK THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS STARTED TO POP UP EXPONENTIALLY SIMPLY BY VIRTUE AT THE BASE LAYER OF NOT KNOWING WHERE I LIVE.

AND I THINK A LOT OF MY FROM THE GET GO.

THAT IS, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING HERE?

TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS HISTORICAL PROBLEM WITH MINNEAPOLIS IN GENERAL?

OR IS THIS ONE BAD OFFICER?

SO FOR MYSELF, I DIDN'T HAVE ANY OF THOSE ANSWERS FROM THE START, BUT IT REALLY WAS STARTING FROM THE VERY BOTTOM IN TERMS OF JUST TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION AND HOW MUCH ANGER THERE WAS IN THE CITY.

SO THAT'S WHAT SORT OF LED ME TO WANT DIVE MORE INTO THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, THROUGH A HISTORICAL BUT ALSO REPORTING LENS, COLLABORATING WITH OUR PARTNERS AT THE 'STAR TRIBUNE.'

TALK ABOUT THAT, IF YOU WILL.

THE FILM OPENS AND YOU'RE HEARING VOICES OF THE REPORTERS, VARIOUS REPORTERS WHO HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN IT, WHO HAD THE SAME CURIOSITY YOU DESCRIBED JUST NOW THEMSELVES.

WANTING TO KNOW HOW MANY OTHER DEATHS, HOW MANY ATTACKS HAVE TALK ABOUT THE IDEA AS A FILMMAKER THAT I'M GOING THE PARTNER UP WITH THIS NEWSPAPER HERE.

I THINK AT THE TIME, BECAUSE ACTUALLY I WAS DOING SORT OF CINEMATOGRAPHY FILM WORK FOR 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' WHEN GEORGE FLOYD WAS KILLED AND THE DAYS FOLLOWING, I LIKE ANYONE WAS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION THROUGH NEWS OUTLETS, DIFFERENT NEWSPAPERS.

AND I DID FIND THAT THE REPORTING FROM THE 'STAR TRIBUNE,' SPECIFICALLY LIBOR JANEY, LIZ NAVRITIL AND OTHERS BROUGHT A BROAD PERSPECTIVE OR HAD MORE CONTEXT, AND I THINK THAT'S WHERE I FELT MOST COMFORTABLE TRYING TO LEARN MORE FROM PEOPLE WHO LIVED HERE MUCH LONGER THAN I HAVE AND WHO HAVE THE MULTIPLE CONTEXTS THAT I THINK NATIONAL OUTLETS FROM THE START DON'T NORMALLY HAVE WHY THE FROM THE GET GO, BUT HAVE TO RELY ON OTHERS WHO HAVE LIVED HERE MUCH LONGER THAN ANY OF US HAVE TO GET THAT.

I THINK THAT'S SENING OUR CURIOSITY AND UNDERSTANDING, LATCHING ON TO THAT WAS WHAT ALLOWED ME TO WANT TO OPEN MORE DOOR DOORS WITH MORE QUESTIONS AND HOPEFULLY MORE ANSWERS.

I MENTIONED FROM THE INTRODUCTION THAT YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO WEAVE INTO THIS FILM -- BY THE WAY, IT'S A MARVELOUS FILM.

IT'S TELLING THROUGHOUT PROVOKING.

EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT A DOCUMENTARY TO BE.

I MENTIONED YOU WERE ABLE TO WEAVE IN EARLIER FOOTAGE, DEREK CHAUVIN ENGAGE IN THE ACTS OF CLEARLY POLICE ABUSE DIRECTED TOWARDS CITIZENS HERE.

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THE ACCESS TO THAT?

AND HOW DID YOU HOPE IT WAS GOING TO CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR STORY TELLING?

IT'S AN INTERESTING -- THINK ABOUT --

BECAUSE WE -- WE HAVE ALL SEEN THE FOOTAGE OF DEREK CHAUVIN AND GEORGE FLOYD.

RIGHT.

AND IT'S STUNNING IN ITS BRUTALITY, AND WE KNOW THE JURORS TALKED ABOUT THE IMPACT THAT IT HAD.

BUT WE'RE ALSO LEARNING IN THIS FILM ABOUT THE TYPES OF PRIOR INSTANCES, AND PEOPLE ARE ASKING QUESTIONS, WHY DOES THEY STAY ON THE JOB?

WHY DOES HE REMAIN ATRAINING OFFICER?

WHAT DID YOU FIND?

I THINK THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I FOUND, THAT NARRATIVE -- OR AT LEAST BY THAT NARITIVE I SIMPLY MEAN, THERE WAS A NARRATIVE WE SAW DURING TRIAL THAT THIS PARTICULAR INCIDENT WAS A ROGUE MOMENT THEM OFFICER, OFFICER DEREK CHAUVIN DECIDED TO TAKE THIS ACTION IN HIS HANDS AND ESSENTIALLY MURDER GEORGE FLOYD, AND THE WAY THAT HE DID THAT WAS VERY MUCH CRITICIZED BY HIS COLLEAGUES AND PEERS AT THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT.

THAT BEING SAID, I THINK THERE WAS A QUESTION TO, WELL, HAD HE DONE THIS BEFORE?

AND TO WHAT EXTENT IS HIS BEHAVIOR AND HIS USE OF FORCE -- HOW OFTEN HAD HE DONE THAT?

THERE ARE ALREADY A DEGREE OF -- THERE WAS ALREADY THE DEGREE OF REPORTING HAPPENING AROUND THE NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS HE HAD RECEIVED OVER HIS AROUND 18-YEAR HISTORY WITH MPD.

WITH THAT, COMBINING THAT QUESTION OF, HAD THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?

REALLY ALLOWED US TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND HOW ROGUE WAS HIS BEHAVIOR.

AND THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT WE WANTED TO LOOK INTO.

AND WHEN WE FOUND MOMENTS THAT REVEALED THAT, WE SHOWED -- OR AT LEAST I BELIEVE WE HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT MEANS FOR AN OFFICER TO ESCALATE A SITUATION QUICKLY AND MOREOVER, WHAT A TECHNIQUE LIKE A KNEE ON THE NECK ACTUALLY -- HOW THAT'S EMPLOYED AND WHY THAT'S BEING USED IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND EVENTUALLY, IN TRIAL, WHY THAT IS BEING CALLED OUT AS PROBLEMATIC BEHAVIOR WHEN IN FACT CHAUVIN HAD BEEN DOING THAT MOVE FOR SOME TIME.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU TALKED ABOUT THEY WANT TO LOOK AT IS THE NOTION OF CULTURE OF THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, AGAIN, THIS WHOLE IDEA THAT ROGUE COWBOY COP?

OR IS THIS THE PERVASIVE CULTURE THERE?

THE FILM TALKS ABOUT, WHEN THEY'RE LOOKING AT THE BURNING OF THE THIRD PRECINCT, AND REPORTING THAT SHOWED THAT HAD BEEN SOMETHING OF A HAVEN FOR WHAT WERE REFERRED TO AS COWBOY COPS, PEOPLE WITH BAD REPUTATIONS.

WHAT DID YOU FIND WHEN YOU TALKED TO OTHER MEMBERS OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT ABOUT HOW THEY VIEWED THE CULTURE OF THEIR OWN DEPARTMENT?

I BELIEVE DURING OUR REPORTING, OR DURING THE PAST FEW YEARS, WE TALKED TO A LOT OF POLICE OFFICERS AND, I PERSONALLY LEARNED A LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS WHEN IT CAME TO THE NUMBER OF OFFICERS WHO REALLY DID WANT TO DO GOOD, WHO DO FEEL THAT THEY ARE THERE TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY.

AT THE SAME TIME, THERE ARE OFFICERS WHO AREN'T, I GUESS -- ARE CREATING MORE PROBLEMATIC PATTERNS IN THE DEPARTMENT, SO IN TERMS OF CULTURE, WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING IN TERMS OF THE OFFICERS WHO DID AGREE TO TALK TO US, MANY OF WHOM WERE FORMER OFFICERS, REALLY DESCRIBED HOW, IF THERE IS PROBLEM BEHAVIOR GOING ON, THE BARRIERS TOWARDS CALLING THAT OUT IS QUITE DIFFICULT, AND THE CULTURE WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT SORT OF DISALLOWS, OR AT LEAST MAKES IT VERY DIFFICULT TO HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT.

THAT WAS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY THAT I WAS ABLE TO GLEAN -- THAT WE WERE ABLE THE GLEAN OFF THE REPORTING THAT THE 'STAR TRIBUNE' AND MY COLLEAGUE HAD DONE IN THE CONVERSATIONS WITH FORMER POLICE OFFICERS.

INTERESTING HOW THAT CONTINUES.

I GO BACK 40 YEARS WHEN I WAS A PROSECUTOR, FIRST JOB OUT OF LAW SCHOOL, AND I HAD TO PROSECUTE A POLICE OFFICER.

I TALKED WITH OTHERS IN THE DEPARTMENT AND SAID, I'M NOT GOING TO GET ON THE STAND AND TELL YOU THIS.

I WILL TELL THANK YOU FACE-TO-FACE THAT THIS GUY'S A PROBLEM, HAS BEEN A PROBLEM.

AND I POSED THE QUESTION TO THEM THAT YOU JUST MENTIONED -- WHY WON'T YOU COME?

WHY WON'T YOU GET ON THE STAND?

AND IT WAS THAT SAME RESPONSE.

LOOK, WE THINK MOST OF THE PEOPLE HERE ARE GOOD, HONEST, DECENT POLICE OFFICERS, AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT MOST PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THIS WOULD TELL YOU.

THE PROBLEM, IS HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THE ONES WHO ARE NOT?

HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THE DEREK CHAUVINS AND NOT LET HIM REMAIN AS A TRAINING OFFICER, TEACHING OTHER PEOPLE WHEN THESE ARE THE METHODS HE USES?

I THINK WHAT YOU FOUND IS SOMETHING WE HAVE SEEN A LOT IN NOT JUST RECENT PAST, BUT GOING WAY BACK.

DID YOU GET A SENSE -- AND I DON'T KNOW IF YOU EVEN LOOKED AT A BROADER PICTURE -- BUT DID YOU GET A SENSE THAT THE -- WHAT YOU FOUND IN TERMS OF MINNEAPOLIS AND THEIR POLICE DEPARTMENT S NOT MAYBE UNUSUAL AROUND THE COUNTRY, THAT THERE ARE OTHER CITIES THAT MAYBE REFLECT THESE SAME TYPES OF ISSUES AND PROBLEMS?

IT'S DIFFICULT TO SAY, PARTIALLY BECAUSE I WASN'T EVALUATING OH CITIES, BUT I DO THINK MINNEAPOLIS, FOR ITS SIZE, NOT BEING A SUPER LARGE CITY BURG A MEDIUM CITY THAT'S SIMILAR TO WHAT THE WHOLE COUNTRY WAS GOING THROUGH -- OBVIOUSLY THE PANDEMIC PLAYED A BIG FACTOR, BUT YOU SAW EVERYBODY -- BY EVERYBODY I MEAN CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY RE-EXAMINING THEIR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS.

THIS IS ONE OF MANY POLICE KILLINGS OF A BLACK MAN THAT, I GUESS IN A WAY, WAS A TIPPING POINT FOR PEOPLE TO SAY, WHAT IS OUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH OUR DEPARTMENT?

AND WHAT KIND OF CHANGES NEED TO HAPPEN?

AND OVER THE COURSE OF TWO YEARS, I BELIEVE EVERY CITY WENT THROUGH THEIR OWN RECKONING TO DECIDE, WELL, HOW MUCH REFORM, TO WHAT EXTENT THAT REFORM, WHETHER IT'S DEFUNDING OR REEVALUAING HOW MANY OFFICERS NEED TO BE ON THE FORCE -- I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF QUESTIONS OFFICERS -- OR COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY -- WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE, SO FOR HOW THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS TO CONTEND WITH, THE RESIDENTS THAT THEY'RE SWORN TO PROTECT, I THINK ESPECIALLY WITH THE ELECTION OF WHETHER TO DISMANTLE THAT DEPARTMENT OR NOT, I THINK THAT WAS A GOOD WAY TO CHALLENGE PEOPLE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT DOES POLICING MEAN TO EACH -- SORRY, THAT'S -- GOING IN MULTIPLE DIRECTION THERE IS.

I THINK THAT'S THE THOUGHTFUL RESPONSE, WHICH IS CHALLENGE PEOPLE TO SAY, WHAT DO WE WANT OUR POLICING TO LOOK LIKE, SOUND LIKE, FEEL LIKE?

I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE GREAT MESSAGES THAT COME FROM THIS FILM.

MIKE, AS I MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING, IT'S JUST A WONDERFUL FILM.

GREAT DEAL OF -- GREAT JOB OF FILMMAKING BY YOU.

ONCE AGAIN THE FILM IS CALLED' POLICE ON TRIAL', FRONTLINE.

CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS.

THANK YOU FOR TALKING WITH US.

WE APPRECIATE IT.

THANK YOU, JACK.

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