News, Culture & Society

Minneapolis police under fire for use of ‘sleeper’ neck restraint

Over the past five years, police in Minneapolis have used neck restraint maneuvers on at least 237 people, rendering 44 of them unconscious in the process, according to a new report.

NBC News, which first reported the on the matter after looking at the data and interviewing law enforcement experts from around the US, suggested that the figure appears to be unusually high for a city the size of Minneapolis, which has a population of just 425,000.

But the news outlet noted that due to a dearth of publicly available information on police departments’ use of force, it is difficult to make accurate comparisons between Minneapolis and other American cities.

Data show since early 2015, police in Minneapolis have used neck restraint methods on at least 237 people and rendered 44 of them unconscious. Pictured: Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Leslie Davis is being dragged away by a cop who has his arm around Davis’ neck in 2001

Records obtained by NBC on Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force indicate that in 16 per cent of the incidents where chokeholds were applied by officers since the beginning of 2015, the individuals being restrained lost consciousnesses.

Nearly half of the people who passed out were hurt, but the police department’s records provide no information on the extent of their injuries.

According to the police data, 60 per cent of the 44 people who were made unconscious after being put in a chokehold were black and 30 per cent were white, and nearly all were male. 

A neck restraint, or ‘chokehold,’ as used by police is defined as using an arm or a leg to compress a person’s neck without directly pressing on the airway.

On May 25, white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chavuin was caught on video kneeling on the neck of handcuffed black man George Floyd as he pleaded ‘I can’t breathe,’ resulting in his death.

Five minutes into the eight-minute restraint, Floyd, 46, who was suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a store, stopped breathing, but Chauvin continued pinning his neck to the ground with his knee as his three colleagues looked on without trying to render aid.  

Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

Floyd’s death has sparked a wave of increasingly violent protests that have engulfed the country from coast to coast, leading to some fatalities, countless injuries, arrests and acts of vandalism and looting.  

The specific restraint maneuver used by the now-former officer involving his knee is not taught at any police academy and is not authorized for use by any US police agency, including the Minneapolis PD, according to multiple experts.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video pressing his knee into the neck of a handcuffed black man

George Floyd

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video pressing his knee into the neck of a handcuffed black man, which is not allowed. George Floyd (right) later died 

‘That’s just not taught because that can impact their breathing and their carotid artery. So when police look at that video, they are shocked that those tactics were used.’ Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which researches and advises on police practices, told the Associated Press last week. 

Police recruits learn a variety of use-of-force techniques at the academy, all with the idea that any force employed may equal but not exceed the physical resistance offered by a suspect.

Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter

Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter

One technique is to restrain someone on the ground face-down, but officers are taught to press a part of the lower leg, such as the shin or top of the ankle, across the shoulders or the back. In some cases officers will ‘hog-tie’ suspects’ legs to prevent flight or violent resistance.

Officers are also taught to get a suspect up from the ground as soon as possible, either sitting or standing, since lying on one’s stomach can cause breathing problems, especially for larger people. 

Most of the Minneapolis incidents in which people were subjected to neck restraints and lost consciousnesses involved individuals who were fleeing from police, or who tensed up while being arrested, NBC News reported.

Five of the cases involved domestic abuse or assault. The vast majority of the instances did not stem from a violent offense.

At least two of the cases involved teenagers: a 14-year-old in a domestic abuse case and a 17-year-old accused of shoplifting.

In one instance, a police officer reportedly used a neck restraint on a person who was ‘verbally non-complaint’ during a traffic stop.

Police departments across the US have been moving away from using neck restraint methods for years because of their 'inherent life-threatening potential.' Pictured: Miami policemen, one holding the man's arm and the other with an arm lock on his neck, drag away a black youth during a clash between police and rioters in August 1968

Police departments across the US have been moving away from using neck restraint methods for years because of their ‘inherent life-threatening potential.’ Pictured: Miami policemen, one holding the man’s arm and the other with an arm lock on his neck, drag away a black youth during a clash between police and rioters in August 1968 

The Minneapolis Police Department’s official policy manual that is available online does allow the use of sanctioned chokeholds and two types of neck restraints: conscious and unconscious. 

According to the manual, a neck restraint is ‘defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.’

Officers are permitted to use unconscious neck restraints only on subjects ‘exhibiting active aggression,’ ‘for life saving purposes,’ or ‘on a subject who is exhibiting active resistance…and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.’ 

Judging by the date that appears next to the section in the manual that covers neck restraints, it was last updated more than eight years ago, in April 2012.   

Ed Obayashi, deputy sheriff in Plumas County, California, and a national use-of-force expert who trains state police agencies, told NBC that police departments across the US have been moving away from using neck restraint methods for years because of their ‘inherent life-threatening potential.’

‘It’s common sense,’ Obayashi said. ‘Any time you cut off someone’s airway or block blood flow to the brain, it can lead to serious injury or death as we have seen in so many of these tragedies. By using this tactic, it’s a self-fulfilling tragedy.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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