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California Governor Orders End To Carotid Hold Training

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pictured in an April 2020 photograph.

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Above: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pictured in an April 2020 photograph.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday ordered the state police training program to stop teaching officers how to use a hold that can block the flow of blood to the brain.

It marked his first action on police use of force following two weeks 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 several minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.

Since then, there have been a cascade of calls around the country for police to review their policies. The San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are among the agencies that announced they would stop using the carotid hold, named because it applies pressure to the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain.

“We train techniques on strangleholds that put people's lives at risk," Newsom said. “That has no place any longer in 21st century practices and policing.”

Newsom issued his order to the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. The commission provides curriculum for training law enforcement officers throughout California. The decision on using the hold is up to police agencies.

Police in California and elsewhere have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds during the current protests. Newsom also said he wants the Legislature to set standards for crowd control and police use of force in protests.

“We are not seeing people treated equally all across the state of California,” he said. “We need to standardize those approaches.”

Last year, Newsom signed a law that limits police use of lethal force to defending against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders. The old standard allowed officers to use lethal force if they had a “reasonable fear,” which made it rare for an officer to be charged or convicted.

That law was prompted by the 2018 fatal police shooting in Sacramento of Stephon Clark, who was black. Newsom spent Wednesday cleaning up graffiti in downtown Sacramento with Clark’s brother.

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