Calif. police agencies announce ban on use of carotid restraint

"It is time for our department to focus on alternative de-escalation tools and techniques that will help ensure the safety of those individuals in our custody"

Teri Figueroa
San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Several law enforcement agencies in San Diego -- including the Sheriff's Department -- on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on the carotid restraint, a move that comes two days after San Diego police said they would no longer allow officers to use the controversial neck hold.

The Sheriff's Department, as well as police departments in Oceanside, Coronado and La Mesa -- which was beset by riots sparked by police and racial injustices on Saturday — all announced they were making the policy change.

"In light of community concerns, and after consultation with many elected officials throughout the county, I am stopping the use of the carotid restraint by my deputies effective immediately," San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said in a written statement. "I have and always will listen to any feedback about the public safety services we provide. Working together, we can ensure San Diego remains the safety urban county in the nation."

In such a hold, officers use an arm to put pressure on the sides of a person's neck. If it's applied correctly, the person can fall unconscious. Police leaders have said it can resolve incidents before needing to turn to deadlier force like use of a gun. But it can lead to injury or death. Critics assail it as dangerous, and say it is used disproportionately on people of color.

Oceanside police Chief Frank McCoy issued a statement Wednesday noting he is "aware this particular restraint option has been and continues to be considered unacceptable in many communities."

"It is time for our department to focus on alternative de-escalation tools and techniques that will help ensure the safety of those individuals in our custody," McCoy said.

Coronado police Chief Charles Kaye, who said his department has used it just once in the last three years, told the Union-Tribune that "a lot of thought went into this (decision) over the last several days."

"How would you you be impacted by the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd," Kaye said.

The policy change came after a week of protests and riots locally and nationally following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs and pleading that he could not breathe as a Minneapolis police officer kept a knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes. The incident was caught on video.

San Diego, like cities across the nation, has seen days of demonstrations, protests and even riots as people decry police mistreatment of communities of color.

It's a ban long-sought by activists, among then Racial Justice Coalition founder Buki Domingos. "Everybody has been pinching themselves," she said Wednesday afternoon. "They have been crying. ... I'm really glad. I am happy."

"I want to commend Sheriff Gore for heeding to our call today, and for doing what is morally right in this moment in America where we are at a crossroads," said Shane Harris, president of the advocacy group The People's Alliance for Justice, after hearing the news of Gore's decision. "And I hope that he is committed to long-term reforms that are far too late in policing."

Harris said there is still much work to do to reform law enforcement agencies, and he hoped Gore will work with Harris' advocacy group and others to take actions to ensure equal justice for all people.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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