Local law enforcement use ‘chokeholds’ in deadly force situations

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Several local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, told WDTN.com on Tuesday that they do not allow officers to use chokeholds or vascular/carotid control techniques to restrain suspects unless it’s a situation that requires deadly force.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, as well as sheriff’s departments in Miami, Greene, Warren and Clark counties, do not allow the use of chokeholds (techniques that restrict the breathing of an individual) or vascular or carotid control techniques (holds that restrict blood flow in a suspect and cause them to pass out momentarily) unless the officer’s life or another person’s life is in danger. This is according to statements from the departments as well as interviews with several law enforcement officials.

Law enforcement restraint techniques have fallen under severe scrutiny since the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. Floyd died while being arrested by four Minneapolis police officers on a forgery charge. He was handcuffed on his stomach while Officer Derek Chauvin put his knee into the upper back and neck of Floyd. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. The incident was captured by several at the scene using smartphones. He later died during the course of the arrest.

Chauvin has been charged by Minneapolis State Attorney General Keith Ellison with second-degree murder. The three other officers at the scene have also been arrested and charged. Floyd’s death has led to thousands of protests in hundreds of cities across the country.

Even though Floyd wasn’t restricted in a traditional chokehold or vascular hold, his death has led to governments and law enforcement across the country and globe to ban chokehold and vascular holds unless deadly force is required.

The New York Police Department dropped opposition to legislation banning the techniques on Tuesday. The NYPD had been under fire for the techniques since the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Minneapolis banned head and neck restraints by officers in the wake of Floyd’s death. France’s Interior Minister announced Monday certain restraint techniques would be banned.

Local departments restrict the use of vascular control holds to deadly force situations. Each of the agencies that responded to WDTN.com stated it didn’t allow vascular or carotid holds unless it was a situation where the officer, trooper or deputy were in a fight for their life or the life of someone else nearby was in danger.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office had allowed the use of the lateral vascular neck restraint until the death of George Floyd on May 25 but has since put the technique in the deadly force category. Clark County Chief Deputy Jeffrey Meyer said the hold hadn’t been used in the years he had been with the office.

“We actually discontinued it since the Geoge Floyd incident,” Meyer said. “It had been on our use of force continuum for quite a while. But as long as I’ve been at the Sheriff’s Office, I have checked off on all force reports that come through the department and not one time in that period had it been used. We’ve never used it since we’ve had it in our use of force policy.”

Lt. Craig Cvetan said choke or vascular holds had not been used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for as long as he could determine by looking through OSHP files.

“Anytime we are dealing with an area where you will restrict someone’s breathing; or just the head, neck and spine, those are critical areas of the body,” Cvetan said. “Applying force there is a substantial risk of death.”

In a statement to WDTN.com, Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said his department doesn’t train carotid control holds and don’t use the technique.

“All of our policies are in accordance with the Ohio Collaborative relating to the use of force, or as we refer to it, response to resistance,” Duchak wrote. “Typically in most response to resistance incidents, the Taser is uzed to control the subject. Even that use is very rare here.”

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said carotid or vascular holds have only been allowed in deadly force situations since he’s been with the department. He stated that in deadly force encounters, when officers are fighting for their lives or the lives of people around them, the circumstances are much different.

“If you are in a fight for your life as a citizen or as an officer, what are you going to do to save your life?” Sims said. “To take things off the table, I don’t know how you would do that.

“We don’t want anyone to be put in a chokehold. The most current tragedy (with George Floyd), with someone’s knee on their neck, we wouldn’t train that or condone any such thing as that.”

Find the latest on local and national protests on WDTN.com.

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