|Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Knee to Neck used hundreds of times in
How common is it for Minnesota police departments to authorize
chokeholds, ‘neck restraints’? | MinnPost
When the city of Minneapolis signed an agreement with the state earlier
this month to ban chokeholds and neck restraints after former officer
Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on a south Minneapolis street, some
police officials around Minnesota were surprised.
Not that the maneuvers were newly banned. But that the Minneapolis
Police Department had still been using neck restraints and chokeholds at
all. “I was actually surprised when I learned that Minneapolis still had
it to be honest with you,” said New Ulm police chief Dave Borchert. “I
would have thought that would have been gone for decades.”
From Duluth to New Ulm, more than a dozen police departments contacted
by MinnPost said their officers are not allowed to use neck restraints
or chokeholds of any kind — except as deadly force. Many said the
practices had been out of use for as long as they could remember,
largely because they can be dangerous.
Even so, a small, yet shrinking, number of departments said they still
teach some form of neck restraint for officers, a controversial tactic
that is meant to control a person resisting arrest.
The Minneapolis policy
Prior to last week, the policy manual for Minneapolis police said
officers could use chokeholds to cut off air and kill someone when
deadly force is necessary because an officer fears they or others could
be killed or suffer a severe injury. The same rules apply for firing a gun.
An officer could also use two types of neck restraints in less severe
circumstances. One is called a conscious neck restraint, in which an
officer applies light to moderate pressure to the side of a person’s
neck but does not intend to knock a person unconscious. That could be
used against people who are “actively resisting,” according to the
policy guidebook posted online.
The other neck restraint is one meant to render someone unconscious, and
could be used when someone is “exhibiting active aggression” and for
“life saving purposes.” Department policy said neck restraints can’t be
used against people who are “passively resisting.”
Neither of those two neck restraints were supposed to block or obstruct
a person’s airway, but are intended to limit or cut off blood flow.
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Chauvin’s behavior was
not in line with department policy. But the department signed an
agreement with the state Department of Human Rights to ban all neck
restraints and chokeholds anyway.
The maneuvers faced scrutiny long before Floyd’s killing. Police were
criticized in 2014 for using an unauthorized chokehold that killed Eric
Garner in New York City, and law enforcement experts say neck restraints
can be dangerous when not applied properly. (Particularly when applied
on someone who is lying face down.) More recently, California Gov. Gavin
Newsom eliminated vascular chokeholds from state police training and New
York lawmakers passed a ban on chokeholds June 8.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz called banning chokeholds “a pretty damn
damn low bar” for changes to Minneapolis policing policy, and on
Wednesday he endorsed the idea of banning them statewide. Majority House
Democrats and Senate Republicans have also said they plan to ban
chokeholds and neck restraints.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria ArradondoMinneapolis Police Chief
MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Derek Chauvin’s behavior
was not in line with department policy.
At a hearing Saturday, Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, cited data
reported by NBC News that shows Minneapolis police used neck restraints
at least 237 times since 2015, and that force knocked someone
unconscious 44 times. Sixty percent of the people that police rendered
unconscious were Black.
NBC also reported that when MPD used neck restraints it was sometimes in
situations involving assaults on officers or domestic abuse or assault,
and in most cases there was no violent offense connected to the maneuver.
“Clearly this technique isn’t used exclusively as a last resort to
control a suspect who is resisting,” Moran said. “Therefore we find it
important, we find it necessary, we find it prudent to regulate it.”
Some departments allow them in Minnesota
So how common are neck restraints and chokeholds outside of Minneapolis?
MinnPost contacted more than two dozen departments, most outside the
Twin Cities metro area, to ask about their policies. Of the 21 that
responded, three said they currently allow some form of neck restraint
in department policy that is not considered deadly force: Winona,
Willmar and Bloomington.
Winona police are trained to use a vascular restraint that cuts off
blood flow to knock someone unconscious. Deputy Chief Tom Williams said
it can be used when you’re “grappling with someone” in close contact and
can’t reach other weapons like a taser. Police are supposed to
incapacitate a person, then give them aid and make sure blood is
returning to their head. Winona police can also use a respiratory
chokehold to cut off air flow, but it can only be used as deadly force,
Willmar police captain Mike Anderson said his department teaches a
“shoulder pin restraint,” where an officer applies pressure to one side
of a person’s neck but doesn’t cut off air supply. They do not teach
chokeholds, Anderson said.
Mike Hartley, deputy chief of the Bloomington Police Department, said
his department authorizes a vascular neck hold, which can be used to
knock someone temporarily unconscious. While he said the department is
always evaluating the effectiveness and safety of its techniques,
they’re not considering eliminating the hold right now.
Most say only use in deadly force
Eighteen police or sheriff’s departments around the state who responded
to MinnPost said neck restraints are not allowed.
Red Wing police chief Roger Pohlman said his officers aren’t trained to
use neck restraints or chokeholds. Pohlman said if an officer doesn’t
have proper technique, a restraint or chokehold could be “misapplied,
which then could result in death.”
Steve Schaar, assistant chief of the Grand Rapids police department,
said when he first started with the department more than 25 years ago,
it was common in policing to use chokeholds to knock someone
unconscious. But while he said his officers can use “pressure points”
under the nose or below the ear, they don’t teach neck restraints or
holds of any type.
Borchert, the New Ulm police chief, said he was trained in the ’90s to
use neck restraints and chokeholds when he graduated from college. But
he said in his 21 years with New Ulm, chokeholds and neck restraints
have never been part of department policy. “Part of that reasoning is
they’re dangerous to apply,” he said.
Among the police or sheriff’s departments MinnPost contacted that don’t
allow neck restraints and chokeholds: Anoka County, Austin, Brainerd,
Brooklyn Park, Duluth, Fergus Falls, Mankato, Moorhead, Rochester,
Sartell, Sherburne County, St. Louis County, St. Paul, Stearns County
and the Minnesota State Patrol.
Neck restraints are not required as part of basic police academy
training in the state, or other ongoing training, according to Robert
Hawkins, interim assistant executive direct of the Minnesota Board of
Peace Officer Standards and Training. The POST board licenses police in
the state. Hawkins said neck restraints aren’t considered part of
current best training practices.
There is an exception to neck restraint bans, however: Departments
widely said officers can use chokeholds if they fear for their life, the
life of others or fear great bodily harm. In other words, in a
self-defense situation where an officer believes they may be killed,
they can employ practically any tactic to defend themselves — even if
it’s not part of agency training.
The Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to requests for
comment on using chokeholds as deadly force in the future. A spokesman
for the Department of Human Rights declined to comment.
At the legislative hearing Saturday, Moran said their ban would not
restrict using chokeholds or neck restraints as deadly force, though
DFLers have proposed changes to laws that regulate when deadly force can
Some move quickly to ditch neck restraints
In a sign of growing opposition to neck restraints, two departments,
Rochester and Brooklyn Park, said they had allowed neck restraints but
banned them last week.
In Rochester, police allowed vascular neck restraints and shoulder pins
against people who display “high levels of active aggression and/or
resistance,” according to past policy, but only if an officer determined
using less force would not be able to bring someone under control. The
techniques were not supposed to put direct pressure on a person’s trachea.
Now, the only time an officer can use a neck restraint of any type is
when deadly force would be authorized. Sarah Clayton, Rochester police’s
administrative services manager, said neck restraints had been rare.
Use-of-force data since 2017 showed no instances of Rochester police
using one, Clayton said.
Mark Bruley, deputy chief of the Brooklyn Park police, said his
department banned vascular neck restraints from policy last week as
well. Bruley said the department believes the technique is a safe,
legitimate policing tool that can help shorter officers, particularly
women, take someone into custody who is bigger than them.
But he said the general public won’t differentiate between the technique
— which he said can’t be done with a knee or leg — and the knee-on-neck
pin Chauvin used on Floyd. Community support is key for police actions,
Bruley said, and continuing to use neck restraints could reduce public
trust and potentially put officers at risk if people see them using a
“We didn’t get rid of it because we think it’s bad, we got rid of it
because community members do not see that technique as a reasonable
option,” Bruley said. “If one of our officers used it tonight I don’t
think our residents could accept that and understand it.”
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