Neck restraints, or neck holds, refer to the practice of officers using their arm or leg to restrain someone’s neck. The technique has been a subject of controversy for years, particularly following the death of Eric Garner in 2014 after a police officer was accused of choking him.
The term “chokehold” is often used in mainstream discourse to refer to any neck hold, but police generally categorize neck restraints in two ways: the stranglehold and the chokehold. Strangeholds – also called carotid restraints, sleeper holds or blood chokes – temporarily cut off blood flow to the brain and are meant to render a subject unconscious for a time. Chokeholds – also called airway holds – restrict breathing by applying pressure to the windpipe.
Law enforcement officers say the techniques are used to gain control of aggressive or resisting subjects. Some departments state that they should only be employed as a last resort, when the officer believes the subject poses a threat to their or others’ lives. But as the cases of Floyd, Garner and others have shown, neck restraints have the potential to go badly wrong – sometimes resulting in death.
Here are some of the cities, states and countries that are banning police neck restraints.
The French government announced on Monday that police will no longer be able to use chokeholds when arresting people.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the use of chokeholds – which he described as applying pressure on an individual’s neck or throat while holding them on the ground – was a “dangerous method” and will no longer be taught in police training.
“I hear the criticism, I hear a powerful cry against hatred,” said Castaner, referring to large Black Lives Matter protests that took place in several major French cities last week. He added “racism has no place in our society, not in our Republic.”
The move came after more than 23,000 protesters took the streets on Saturday to call for an end to police violence, according to Interior Ministry figures released Sunday.
An executive order now prohibits Connecticut State Police from using chokeholds, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday.
The order requires the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to update a state police manual to require troopers to, when possible, deescalate situations, provide a verbal warning and exhaust “all other reasonable alternatives” before resorting to deadly force.
Troopers will also be required to intervene to stop and report another officer’s excessive force.
Gov. Gavin Newsom directed police departments last week to stop training officers to use carotid holds, calling the technique “a strangle hold that puts people’s lives at risk.”
Carotid restraints are performed by compressing the sides of the neck to restrict blood flow to the brain and render a person unconscious.
Newsom’s directive came after the San Diego Police Department and the Sacramento Police Department announced they would stop using the restraint, effective immediately.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) followed on Monday by issuing an immediate moratorium on the use of carotid restraints in situations that “do not rise to the level of deadly force,” the department said.
The department’s use of force policy also prohibits personnel from using chokeholds, strangleholds and carotid restraints performed with legs, knees or feet, according to a news release.
Reevaluating practices at schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District will eliminate the policy allowing carotid holds and the use of pepper spray, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it will not use chokeholds to restrain or secure any person except in situations where deadly force is justified.
And in Miami, police officers are prohibited from utilizing the LVNR (lateral vascular neck restraint) chokehold, neck hold any any other restraint that restricts free movement of the neck or heard or restricts an individual’s ability to breathe.
New York state
Lawmakers passed legislation on Monday banning the use of chokeholds by officers.
Known as the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, the bill would create a new crime of aggravated strangulation, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“This offense would occur when a police or peace officer, using a chokehold or similar restraint, applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person, hindering breathing or the intake of air, and causes serious physical injury or death,” a news release from the New York State Assembly stated.
The New York Police Department banned the use of chokeholds by officers in 1993. But there has long been confusion over what constitutes a chokehold, and the policy has not always been enforced, according to the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee says he wants police across the state to restrict the use of chokeholds in restraining suspects, following the widespread protests that came after Floyd’s death.
“We need to rethink the use of police force, and look more broadly at police tactics,” Inslee said during a news conference Monday.
The governor said the Washington State Patrol already tightly regulates the use of chokeholds that restrict a person’s airflow, with limited exceptions when an officer’s life is in danger, and he wants all law enforcement agencies to adopt similar rules.
“Possibly there are things where life itself is in danger… but police are going to have to convince us that that’s the situation,” he added.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley announced a series of measures Thursday after discussions with local organization JUST America.
Though the department never taught or approved chokeholds, Manley said, their ban will be written into policy. The department also discussed high sanctions for officers intentionally disabling body worn cameras during “critical incidents” and having the mayor and city council involved in policy changes, Manley said.
In February, the Chicago Police Department announced that “carotid artery restraints,” chokeholds and “any other maneuvers for applying direct pressure on a windpipe or airway would be classifies as a deadly force technique.
Police directives state officers are not allowed to use chokeholds or similar maneuvers that put pressure on a person’s airway as a takedown technique “unless the use of deadly force is authorized.”
The Denver Police Department announced Sunday it was banning chokeholds and carotid compressions “with no exceptions,” according to a news release.
The department announced that officers would have to report to a supervisor if they intentionally point a weapon at someone. It would also produce a report on the incident to improve data collection and evaluation, the department said.
Additionally, Denver Police Department Metro/SWAT unit members will wear body cameras they will be required to activate during operations.
At George Floyd’s funeral Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he will sign an executive order banning chokeholds and enact other police reforms.
“In this city, you will require de-escalation,” the mayor said, according to CNN affiliate KTRK. “In this city, you have to give a warning before you shoot. In this city, you have a duty to intervene.”
“In this city, we will require comprehensive reporting. In this city, you must exhaust all alternatives before shootings, and there will be other things in this executive order,” he added, according to the news station.
A Hennepin County judge is ordering the Minneapolis Police Department to stop using all neck restraints and chokeholds when dealing with suspects.
The plan was first approved by Mayor Jacob Frey and the city council late last week, in cooperation with the state Department of Human Rights.
The ban comes after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Under the court order, officers must immediately notify a supervisor if they see inappropriate use of force. Officers are also required to physically intervene against unauthorized use of force when possible, or otherwise “shall be subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.”
The Phoenix Police Department announced on Tuesday that it would suspend use of the “carotid control technique,” effective immediately.
“We can’t function as a department without the trust of our community and there are adjustments we can make to strengthen that trust,” Chief Jeri Williams said in a statement.
The department said the move is part of its regular evaluation of policies and procedures to align with “21st-century policing practices, community expectations, and our department’s mission and values.”
The Seattle City Council unanimously voted Monday to ban the use of chokeholds as well as the Seattle Police Department using crowd control weapons.
The department is prohibited from owning, purchasing, renting, storing or using “kinetic impact projectiles, chemical irritants, acoustic weapons, directed energy weapons, water cannons, disorientation devices, ultrasonic cannons, or any other device that is designed to be used on multiple individuals for crowd control and is designed to cause pain or discomfort,” according to the bill.
The bill also requires certain uniformed peace officers not to cover the serial number engraved on their badge with a mourning band.
In a Tuesday newsletter, DC Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau announced the council had unanimously passed a policing reform bill that among other things bans chokeholds.
The legislation also calls for body cam footage to be released within 72 hours after an officer-involved fatality and forbids from watching that footage before writing their report.
It also requires officers undergo further training on racism and white supremacy.
CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Sarah Dean, Gregory Lemos, Brian Vitagliano, Andy Rose and Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.