MILPITAS (CBS SF/AP) — The Mountain View Police Department joined several other California law enforcement agencies Monday in prohibiting its officers from using chokeholds to subdue suspects.
The San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department both announced last week that they would stop using the carotid hold. Gov. Gavin Newsom he was also asking the state police to prohibit the use of tactic.
In a tweet, Mountain View said: “After further review, and in line w/ state recommendations, we have updated our policy to immediately discontinue the use of the carotid hold.”
Mountain View’s action differs from its neighbor San Jose.
San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said his department still allows the carotid hold as a last option before lethal force. He said officers are taught to apply pressure to the sides, rather than the front, of someone’s neck so it wouldn’t block their breathing.
“If you take some of these control holds away, then you eliminate steps before you get to deadly force,” he said.
Garcia said he understands Newsom is trying to instill greater public trust in police but chafed at the governor’s description of the technique as a stranglehold.
“I’ll guarantee you that you will not find ‘stranglehold’ in any police department’s duty manual,” he said.
Newsom announced on Friday he was ordering the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use a neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain and endorsed legislation that would ban the practice statewide.
“It goes without saying we cannot see the kind of techniques that tragically and ironically we train,” he said. “I own this. We own this. Across this country, we train techniques on strangleholds that put people’s lives at risk. Now we can argue that these are used as exceptions, but at the end of the day, a carotid hold, that literally is designed to stop people’s blood from flowing into their brain. That has no place any longer in 21st century practices and policing.”
It marked his first action on police use of force following more than a week of protests across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died on Memorial Day after a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
Police experts have condemned the Minneapolis officer for using an unacceptable method. However, many departments still employ the carotid method, also known as the sleeper hold, that critics say is overly dangerous.
It involves applying pressure to the sides of the neck with an arm, which can almost immediately block blood flow in the carotid arteries and render someone unconscious. If the blood flow is restricted too long it can cause serious injury or even death.
Floyd’s death has prompted police departments to review their methods. Friday, city leaders in Minneapolis agreed to ban choke holds by police and require officers to immediately report to their superiors when they see use of any neck restraint.
Newsom said he has ordered the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to stop teaching the hold. The commission provides curriculum for training more than 600 agencies and departments throughout California, according to its website. But the decision on whether to allow officers to use the hold is up to each law enforcement agency.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, a Democrat from Carson, has authored a bill in the state Legislature that would make carotid holds illegal. Newsom said he would sign it into law if lawmakers pass it.
Ronald Tyler, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Stanford University, said stopping the training will impact new recruits.
“But I think the real pressure is going to be how quickly can the Legislature actually ban it outright,” he said. “that’s what will lead to a sense among police officers that this increases your liability.”