Local activists call for ban on chokeholds by San Diego law enforcement

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SAN DIEGO – Just days after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, local activists are calling for an end to the use of any sort of chokehold by San Diego law enforcement officers.

In a news conference Friday, representatives from the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego called for a ban of neck restraint techniques by local authorities, calling them both “inhumane” and “improper.” According to the Police Department, San Diego officers have used the carotid restraint — also known as a sleeper hold or chokehold — 570 times in a span of five years.

In nearly one-quarter of those cases, the person being retrained was black.

“It’s just time, we have to change this,” said Marie Cofinco, who says her nephew died after an Anaheim police officer used the carotid restraint on him in 2016. “It’s a brutal, brutal way of dying. And for me, it’s a trigger. It’s going to take years for me to move on.”

Cofinco said her nephew’s family was awarded more than $13 million in damages but that the City of Anaheim has appealed the case.

“I’m the only one in my family that continues to fight and continues to go out there and tell my nephew’s story,” she said.

She’s not alone. Desiree Smith says her son was 15-years-old and attending Lincoln High School when an officer used a neck restraint on him during an incident after a homecoming event.

He survived the experience, but his mother says he suffered physically and mentally.

“He could not sleep at night,” Smith said. “He would pace the floor all night. He couldn’t concentrate. When he did go to sleep, he would jump out of his sleep.”

Local activists are calling for a total ban on the use of neck restraints by law enforcement officers.

Officials from the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a reporter’s request for comment on discontinuing the technique.

This week, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore expressed condolences to Floyd’s family, with Nisleit remarking, “Our profession has to do better.” On Friday, Gore said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo took “swift and decisive action” in firing the four involved officers, including Derek Chauvin, who put his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he later died.

“The men and women of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department hold ourselves to a very high standard and work every day to build trust with the communities we serve,” Gore said. “Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis is a harsh reminder of how the actions of a few can quickly erode that trust.”

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