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All San Diego Law Enforcement Agencies Ban Use Carotid Neck Restraint

A protester kneels before a line of police officers in downtown San Diego, Ma...

Photo by Mike Damron

Above: A protester kneels before a line of police officers in downtown San Diego, May 31, 2020.

It’s been a week of historic change in law enforcement in San Diego County.

On Monday afternoon, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit announced an end to the use of the carotid neck restraint hold by San Diego officers. The Sheriff’s Department followed two days later, and now 15 law enforcement agencies across the county have followed suit.

But for some social justice advocates, it’s too little, too late.

“It’s the lowest hanging fruit," said Andrea St. Julian from San Diegans for Justice at a news briefing Thursday morning. "It’s the easiest thing to do, it is, it is a quarter of a step, it’s nowhere near enough.”

That perspective is not shared by Sheriff Bill Gore — who still says the carotid hold is safe when done properly. But two days after SDPD abandoned the hold, Gore did too. He said the utility of the hold was outweighed by a desire to move forward with the community.

“We want to progress and I think that technique was stopping us from doing that and that’s why I discontinued it," Gore said.

RELATED: Community Boards To Meet Regarding SDPD De-Escalation-Of-Force Policies

Reported by John Carroll

When asked about the sudden change of so many agencies at once, University of San Diego associate professor of sociology Cid Martinez said, "Protest works. That’s the short answer.”

Martinez specializes in the study of policing, especially the use of force. He said the elimination of the carotid hold is an important first step toward serious police reform. But there’s a bigger picture.

Martinez contrasted the situation today to that of 1992 when violence flared in Los Angeles following the acquittal of officers who beat Rodney King. The current demonstrations have spread around the country and around the world. Martinez said there’s one big reason why: COVID-19.

“It put all of us kind of in the same boat, and I think that’s why whites are a little more sympathetic," he said. "They feel abandoned by the state economically, they see the injustice at the political level too ... I think that we’re seeing the formation of a new political and social consciousness, and if whites continue to stand up as allies, we could see a shift in some serious police reform and criminal justice reform and also a shift in the color line and race relations in America."

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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