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Law Enforcement Agencies Throughout County Announce End To Carotid Restraint

A La Mesa police vehicle drives the streets, May 17, 2019.

Photo by Claire Trageser

Above: A La Mesa police vehicle drives the streets, May 17, 2019.

Fifteen San Diego-area law enforcement agencies have announced that they will halt their use of the so-called carotid restraint, a compliance technique that renders uncooperative detainees unconscious but can prove deadly if performed improperly.

Those agencies include: police departments in Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Escondido, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside and San Diego, as well as the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and San Diego Harbor Police.

Police departments at San Diego State University and University of California San Diego also announced an end to the use of the carotid restraint, along with the San Diego Community College Police Department and the San Diego Unified School District Police Department.

The agencies announced the decision in a joint statement Wednesday night.

"As San Diego County law enforcement leaders, we have listened to the concerns of our community and hope this action furthers positive dialogue," the agencies said in a joint statement. "We are committed to improving the police profession and enhancing the trust of our community."

In a Twitter posting Wednesday, county Sheriff Bill Gore said that he was taking the step "in light of community concerns and after consultation with many elected officials throughout the county."

On Monday, the San Diego Police Department became the first police agency to discontinue the practice, citing the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who passed out and died after being pinned by the neck to the ground by an officer's knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis. He repeatedly said he could not breathe in the final minutes of his life.

"We are watching the hurt and pain so many people are expressing after the tragic death of George Floyd and are committed to taking new actions to make sure something like this doesn't happen in San Diego," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Wednesday.

In a carotid restraint — a type of so-called chokehold also known as a "sleeper hold" — an officer applies pressure to vascular veins on the side of a detainee's neck to render the person unconscious in a matter of seconds. A different type of chokehold puts pressure on the front of the neck and throat, cutting off air, but if done wrong, the sleeper hold can also asphyxiate.

The use of the carotid restraint locally has caused "much concern and frustration by many in our minority communities," Faulconer said.

The sheriff also said he decided to make the policy change due to input from the community.

"I have and always will listen to any feedback about the public- safety services we provide," Gore said. "Working together, we can ensure San Diego remains the (safest) urban county in the nation."

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