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Central Texas police departments prohibit chokeholds, but what about other uses of force?

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 20:53:13-04

There's a growing movement pushing for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds and strangleholds. But what makes this request so complicated is how an officer exercises that force when placing pressure on a person's neck. A change in pressure can switch the action from prohibited to accepted.

I can't breathe. It's not the first time those words have ignited a movement.

Organizations like the NAACP and government leaders are now calling for the prohibition of chokeholds and strangleholds by officers to prevent those words from being uttered again.

"It's a death hold. When you're cutting off somebody's breathing, it's a death hold. You're trying to kill them," said Bennie Walsh, President of the Temple branch of the NAACP.

Walsh believes it doesn't take much for the police restraint to turn deadly.

"When you're adrenaline is flowing during an arrest or whatever it may be, you don't know how much strength you may be inflicting on somebody's throat,' he said.

Sergeant Ryan Bona of the Bryan Police Department says it's against policy to use a chokehold.

"We don't do anything that's a chokehold or stranglehold related. That has to deal with airway and restricting the airway in the front, and we don't have anything in our policy that allows that unless we're in deadly force," he said.

Bryan PD is not the only Central Texas police department to ban such techniques. Waco PD says chokeholds have been prohibited by the department for more than two decades. Temple PD says the tactics used in George Floyd's arrest are not taught to their officers.

However, there is a move taught by some departments across the country that can be confused as a chokehold.

It's called a lateral vascular neck restraint. Instead of placing force on the front of a person's neck, it constricts blood flow along the sides.

You're not doing anything in the throat area that would damage or interfere with normal breathing flow. You're staying off the windpipe and all those things," explained Sgt. Bona.

The restriction can cause a person to pass out. Mike Gentry, Director of Training for the Texas Police Chiefs Association, says the technique is not common.

"Even the lateral vascular neck restraint by policy, my experience is it's fairly rare that it's authorized or addressed. I haven't seen one in some time," he said.

The move was part of Bryan PD's use of force options. However the department has recently removed the hold following a policy review.

"Every time that we have a use of force and we get that use of force reporting form and we look at it, we go back and we review the policy, and if we see things that need to be changed, then we try to determine what's the best way to change them, what's the most appropriate action to take," said Sgt. Bona.

Certain police documents, like use of force policies, are available to the public. To look at your department's handbook, send a public information request to your city. This can usually be done through your city's website.