While we join the rest of the country in calling for justice in the murder of George Floyd, we recognize that officer Thomas Lane was just a rookie when he assisted veteran officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao with the murder of George Floyd. Most people think that Thomas Lane was just as responsible as Chauvin. We agree for the most part because as a human being and as an officer he had an obligation to do what he could to stop Chauvin from murdering Floyd. That obligation exists because as a police officer his job is to fight crime no matter who is committing it. At the same time, people do need to think about the fact that he was a rookie in determining what his fate should be. We don't think he deserves the same punishment as Chauvin, but still deserves to be punished.
Police organizations operate a lot like the military when it comes to command and control. They are groups where nobody questions authority during times of action. That does not excuse his failure, but it makes it look less malicious than it might otherwise be. Where we have a little sympathy for Lane is in his total lack of professional role models. He was a rookie and rookies get a lot of on the job training. Obviously he did not have competent superiors to train him. He still should have stopped Chauvin, so he does deserve to go to prison, but perhaps for not quite as long as Chauvin. In a legal sense we believe that Lane is an accessory to First Degree Murder. It is a tough conclusion to make, but we always advocate for people to be punished in accordance with their level of involvement and we think given his rookie status combined with the seniority of the other officers, that he probably was thinking his superiors would eventually do the right thing, was shocked when they did not, didn't really know what to do, and will spend the rest of his life wishing he had done something.
Thomas Lane proved that he lacks the courage and presence of mind necessary to do the right thing. He clearly does not have what it takes to be a police officer. At least he learned that while still a rookie. When this author was in prison, I had a celly that had been in the army, and I was surprised to learn how many of his buddies were recruited by the Bureau of Prisons to be prison guards. He told me that most of them did not last a year because they got sick of treating people the way prisons treat people. Ever since I have had a little bit of sympathy for rookie officers whether they be correctional officers in jails/prisons or street cops. That sympathy comes for how they end up working those jobs. They are in the military, offered better paying and supposedly safer career options, choose to give it a go, and regret it later. Doesn't excuse not stopping a murder like this one, but it does make one doubt whether or not a rookie is as culpable as a veteran in this type of situation.
Finally, we thought at one point that it appeared that officer Lane was to the right of Chauvin while holding Floyd down and may not have had as good of a view as the person filming the incident had. We said this because a car was in front of them, Chauvin's body most likely obstructed his view of Floyd, so he may not have had much more than audio to go on. Other angles reveal that he should have been able to see the knee on the neck just fine. We still think that his lack of action could be due to a more systemic training problem when it comes to not questioning the conduct of superior officers, which is a worse problem than failing to intervene in this incident on a personal level, so we would like to see an examination into training polices when it comes to whether or not to intervene when a superior does something wrong. We would like to know what that is before deciding whether or not this rookie deserves the same punishment as the instigating veteran.
UPDATE: According to the probably cause statement filed against Derek Chauvin https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/minnesota-v-derek-chauvin.pdf, Lane questioned Chauvin's actions, "Lane asked, 'should we roll him on his side? 'and the defendant said, 'No, staying put where we got him.' Officer Lane said, 'I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.' The defendant said, 'Thats why we have him on his stomach.' None of the three officers moved from their positions. "
There are two ways to look at that. First, that Lane tried to stop Chauvin by questioning his action, but was then given a direct order by his superior that he obeyed. Second, Lane realized something was wrong and did not do enough to save Floyd's life. Both arguments have merit. The rookie knew something was wrong, but probably had a misplaced faith in his superior that prevented him for doing more. That is not however sufficient to absolve him of blame in this case, but it does show a lack of intent on Lane's part to kill Floyd. We think that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd while the others were too incompetent and/or lacked the courage to stop him.
UPDATE: Thomas Lane was charged with second degree murder on June 3, 2020.
The complaint lists the following as his last known home address:
574 Continental Drive
St. Paul, MN 55112
Learn more about the charges at https://copblaster.com/blast/25759/all-minneapolis-officers-now-arrested-for-george-floyds-murder