Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng was just a rookie when he helped murder George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Does his lack of experience matter? We believe that it is relevant to his level of culpability. We join the rest of the country in believing that he deserves to be in prison for this, but we also stress that people need to consider systemic problems that make low level officers like Kueng less likely to think for themselves or act on such thoughts in situations like the Floyd murder.
When this author was a federal prisoner, I learned that many correctional officers found their way into that line of work after being in the military and being offered a chance to make more money defending the country against domestic enemies. The turnover rate was really high because a lot of them hated the work and didn't last more than a year. The same is probably true with police officers. Law enforcement culture discourages the questioning of those above you in the chain of command. As a result, a rookie is not likely to question let alone intervene when they see a superior behave like Chauvin did. This is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed with changes in policies and training. Officers simply are not typically trained what to do when they see a superior use excessive force and even if they were the culture would still discourage them from acting on that training. They need to be trained to stop other officers from committing crimes against the public and the culture needs to change so that they can feel comfortable acting on that training.
Does J. Alexander Kueng deserve to go to prison? Yes, he does because as a police officer and as a human being he had a legal and ethical obligation to intervene, but we don't think he is as culpable as Chauvin in this case. That is because he was a rookie obviously lacking professional role models and was most likely doing what he thought he was trained to do. These are primarily systemic problems that have more to do with the practices of law enforcement as a whole than just Kueng as a person in this situation. We think that Kueng should be held accountable, but not to the same level as Derek Chauvin because Chauvin had command responsibility over Kueng and Kueng was likely not trained to question Chauvin's authority during this type of situation. Chauvin is also the one that obviously intended to kill Floyd and we don't believe Kueng had the same intent. Kueng was certainly incompetent and lacking in the personal courage necessary to stop Chauvin, but we don't think that equals intent to kill on Kueng's part.
Kueng will spend the rest of his life with the guilt of knowing that he could have saved Floyd's life. That is a heavy burden. It would not be surprising if Kueng kept thinking that surely Chauvin knew better than he did when to stop choking Floyd. Lower level officers like Kueng put a lot of faith in their superiors and that faith often keeps them from intervening because they think that their boss knows what they are doing and will do the right thing eventually.
UPDATE: J.A. Kueng was charged with second degree murder on June 3, 2020.
The complaint lists the following as his last known home address:
4350 Trenton Lane N
Plymouth, MN 55442
Learn more about the charges at https://copblaster.com/blast/25759/all-minneapolis-officers-now-arrested-for-george-floyds-murder