George Floyd death: bail set at $1m for officer charged with murder

Derek Chauvin said almost nothing during his 11-minute hearing on Monday

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A US judge set bail at $1 million (Dh3.6m) for the white former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering a black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with second and third-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death on May 25.

Mr Chauvin made his first court appearance by video from the state’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights.

He said almost nothing during the 11-minute hearing in which he appeared before Hennepin County Judge Denise Reilly.

Mr Chauvin’s bail was raised to $1.25m (Dh4.5m) without conditions, and to $1m (Dh3.6m) with conditions.

The conditions include prohibitions against working in law enforcement and contact with Mr Floyd’s family.

Mr Chauvin would also have to surrender any licences or permits for firearms to qualify for the lower bail, the order said.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, did not contest the bail and did not address the substance of the charges.

Mr Chauvin’s next appearance was set for June 29.

Meanwhile, mourners gathered for a memorial in the home town of George Floyd on Monday.

On a sweltering summer day in south-west Houston, thousands lined up for the six-hour memorial, waiting for a turn to pay their respects at the Fountain of Praise Church.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he would discuss ideas for revamping police tactics in response to protests, even as he criticised the Democrats for activists’ calls to defund the police.

"There won’t be defunding," Mr Trump said in a summit with law enforcement leaders at the White House.

"There won’t be a dismantling of our police. And there's not going to be any disbanding of our police. Our police have been letting us live in peace.

"We’re going to talk about ideas, how we can do it better, and how we can do it, if possible, in a much more gentle fashion.”

Democrats in the House and Senate on Monday introduced a bill, the Justice in Policing Act, which proposes sweeping reforms that would make it easier to prosecute officers for misconduct.

The bill would place new limits on federal funding for local and state police and would curtail the transfer of military weaponry to them.

The bill would also ban choke holds, like the one that contributed to the death of Floyd, and mob killings would become a hate crime for the first time.

The bill also calls for a national registry of police breaches and a ban on no-knock warrants, such as the one that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March.

Before presenting the bill, top Democrats knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the same time Mr Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd's neck, despite his cries that he could not breathe.

“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Democrats hope to bring the legislation to the floor of the House before the end of the month, but its path through the Republican Senate and the White House is not certain.

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was non-committal about the need for police reform.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, most city council members said on Sunday that they favoured disbanding and rebuilding the police department entirely.

Advocacy groups are now presenting recommendations to the council for effective law enforcement reforms.

Among the groups that gathered on Monday to present more than 40 recommendations were American-Islamic Relations, two Black Lives Matter chapters and the non-profit Communities United Against Police Brutality.

One recommendation called for officers to carry their own professional liability insurance, an idea that aims to increase out-of-pocket insurance rates for officers who engage in high-risk conduct.

Some of the worst offenders would become uninsurable and forbidden to work as police.

The groups also are seeking an independent agency to investigate and prosecute critical incidents involving police; mandatory psychological testing for officers; and community participation in negotiating police union contracts.

Some activists who call for defunding or disbanding police departments say communities could be better served if the funds were redistributed to community services, such as social workers, mental health initiatives and educational programmes.