Arradondo’s testimony was among the most anticipated moments in the trial, in part because this kind of appearance on the stand is so unusual. It’s remarkably rare for a police chief to take the stand against one of their officers, experts say.
Even more striking is that this is the second time Arradondo has testified while a Minneapolis police officer stood trial for murder. In 2019, he testified when officer Mohamed Noor was on trial for shooting and killing Justine Damond, a woman who had called 911 to report hearing a possible sexual assault.
That shooting in 2017, and the ensuing outcry, helped Arradondo become police chief in the first place. Amid the uproar over the shooting, the city’s police chief, Janee Harteau, was forced out and Arradondo stepped into the role, becoming the department’s first Black chief.
Arradondo’s testimony also has been widely anticipated because having a sitting police chief testify in uniform provides a powerful voice for the prosecution. Arradondo’s testimony could be viewed as speaking on behalf of the city’s entire police department, whether or not he intends his remarks that way.
His testimony, along with those from veteran police officials last week, also seem aimed at the defense’s argument that Chauvin was following police training while kneeling on Floyd.
While cross-examining the chief, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, subtly alluded to the threats police face, noting that they could confront dangers during even commonplace moments like traffic stops. While legal analysts think Chauvin will have a hard time arguing he feared for his life, Nelson has said the officers felt threatened by the crowd gathered around them and Floyd that day.
“If the jury sees Chauvin as the defense is trying to portray him, as simply doing what he was trained to do as a police officer, it would be nearly impossible for them to find that he intended to harm Mr. Floyd, a finding necessary for a second degree murder conviction,” Craig B. Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago and director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project, wrote in an email.
“The prosecution’s testimony from high ranking officers … provides a powerful counterweight to the defense argument,” he wrote.