Eleven days after George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who held him in a chokehold for nearly 9 minutes, sparking historical protests across the U.S against the excessive use of force by police and ongoing racial inequalities, the city has banned the use of chokeholds and neck restraints by police.
Floyd’s death by a carotid restraint maneuver was caught on video and seen by millions, who were — who are — at a loss to understand how former officer Derek Chauvin could pin Floyd to the street with his knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. How could three other officers stand-by and not intervene as a man accused of a misdemeanor fell unconscious — while handcuffed and in the chokehold — and continue to be asphyxiated?
Many people believe it was because Floyd was black, including Rebecca Lucero, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, who filed a charge of discrimination against the City of Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis “alleging discrimination in public services based on race,” according to the stipulation and order.
Lucero’s petition aimed to make sure that the George Floyd situation never happens again. It said, “The City of Minneapolis Police Department has engaged in a pattern and practice of race-based policing in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
Now, in response to the petition, the city has agreed to change its policies and said it will start to build “toward systemic change.”
The City Banned the Use of Any Type of Chokehold by Police for Any Reason & Ordered a Duty to Report and Intervene if an Officer Sees Another Officer Use the Banned Method of Restraint
The new orders apply to any member of the police force, regardless of rank. If an officer does not intervene in a situation in which a member of the police department is using a chokehold on a suspect, they too will be disciplined the same as if they themselves used the maneuver, according to the new policy.
Another provision in the agreement between the human rights commissioner and city officials is that during crowd control situations including protests and demonstrations, officers may not use chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds without authorization of the chief of police, or another designated member of the force if the chief is not available.
NBC reported that Minneapolis had used chokeholds 237 times since 2015. In 44 of those cases, the person lost consciousness.
According to NBC, “the particular tactic Chauvin used — kneeling on a suspect’s neck — is neither taught nor sanctioned by any police agency. A Minneapolis city official told NBC News Chauvin’s tactic is not permitted by the Minneapolis police department. For most major police departments, variations of neck restraints, known as chokeholds, are highly restricted — if not banned outright.”
Even Though the Use of Chokeholds Is Dangerous Some Police Agencies Still Allow it
While some law enforcement agencies are banning the use of chokeholds, such as in San Diego County, others are updating their policies on the maneuver.
According to the Eugene, Oregon Police Department, who revised their carotid restraint policy on June 4, 2020, they still allow the use of the carotid restraint chokehold in cases “where deadly force would be authorized.” However, they say that kind of restraint should never be used for more than 15 seconds, or until the person it’s being used on is rendered unconscious.
The carotid restraint, or ‘blood choke’ is different from an airway constriction hold, according to PoliceMag, who say that the hold does not take much strength and is useful when an officer is “smaller or weaker” than as suspect.
According to the article:
The blood choke is recommended for active resisters and aggressive assailants, but as with all techniques and tactics, the officer must use reasonable force as specified by Graham v. Connor. In Graham, the Supreme Court ruled use of force by a police officer is based on an objective reasonableness standard, the totality of the circumstances, and the officer’s perception at that moment. The Court ruled that officers cannot be judged using hindsight because officers often have to make split-second decisions.
Clinical supervising attorney and lecturer in law at Stanford Law School, Suzanne Luban, said in an interview with the Stanford Law School Blog, that police use chokeholds due to a flaw in their training, and it’s dangerous.
There is a philosophy that the degree of force called for is the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject… Police may end up using more severe or damaging force than warranted by the nature of the crime suspected or the type of noncompliance. Another grave risk of such a policy is that police may employ force to “punish” a suspect for resisting.