By Terry Baxter, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist
Use of Force, I know this topic has been addressed over and over but based on what we continue to see nationwide and the growing push from various organizations wanting to provide input on changes to law enforcement use of force polices, this topic is not going away any time too soon and quite frankly this topic never will.
I can’t help but think scrutiny relating to use of force has to be weighing heavy on the minds of our law enforcement officers, which may be perceived as a reluctance to act, especially since use of force is a hypersensitive issue right now and law enforcement is now concerned with public opinion when (you will notice I didn’t say “if”) force is used which in my opinion could pose a different type of a problem, public and officer safety.
1 Nationwide studies have shown most use force encounters are done through weaponless tactics, usually on the lower end of the force continuum, such as grabbing, pushing, and takedowns. Officers are trained to use force progressively starting with the least amount of force necessary to accomplish their goal. What has rocked the nation is the use of force involving incustody deaths, shootings, severe beatings, and using restraints on suspects such as chokeholds has drawn the most attention to law enforcement, especially when injury or death occurs to the subject.
Some law enforcement agencies still allow the use of carotid hold, sleeper hold, or a lateral vascular neck restraint by restricting blood-flow to the brain, rendering the subject unconscious. In some instances, you can use these methods to safely subdue a violent suspect that is resisting, but, only when officers were properly trained, and the restraint was deployed correctly. The downfall to this type of restraint is, if the hold isn’t done properly you can easily shut off a person’s airway. So, tell me, if you permit this type of activity, is it outlined in your policy and does your agency train and practice these restraints during training exercises on a regular basis? In other words, how proficient and comfortable are your officers when applying this type of restraint technique? How comfortable are you as an administrator if this type of force was taken by one of your officers?
There is a strong push to ban chokeholds from law enforcement curriculums and in some academies across the United States it has already happened. Quite frankly, this isn’t such a bad thing coming from a risk management point of view, as a majority of law enforcement officers never receive adequate training on these type of restraint applications, so the chances of doing it right are low.
This type of restraint is taught in martial art schools or dojo’s under the direct supervision of a seasoned martial art instructor where a student learns correct techniques of body positioning, head and arm positioning, where to place the hands and how to protect themselves as well as the person the hold is being applied on. Senior Instructor Sensei’s indicate when a chokehold is applied, it should never be held for more than four seconds.
If your agency does permit the use of chokeholds, your policy at the very least needs to indicate this type of restraint is only permitted when deadly force can be justified.
We all know and understand the level of force an officer uses varies, based on the situation facing the officer at the time, but one thing that has remained the same and how the aftermath will be perceived, will depend on the officer’s level of training, experience, agency policy, but most all whether the amount of force used; was it reasonable and was it justified.
For more information or to request training involving law enforcement and/or corrections operations., contact Terry at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (402) 686-9332.
1 CNN 06/16/2020 Wall St. Journal 06/30/2020 Forbes Magazine 06/16/2020