SAN DIEGO (CNS) – In light of national and local events surrounding the issue of purported police brutality against people of color, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and local elected officials announced Monday that the SDPD would immediately stop using carotid restraints as a use-of-force procedure.
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.
Nisleit was joined by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Council President Georgette Gomez, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery and community leaders in announcing and discussing the change in the San Diego Police Department’s restraint protocols.
“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,” Faulconer said. “That starts today with the police chief’s decision to immediately stop this particular restraint that has led to so much concern and frustration by many in our minority communities.”
Floyd died last Monday after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe. He died from asphyxia, according to the Hennepin County coroner’s report. His cause of death is consistent with restriction of airflow, not blood flow like the carotid restraint banned Monday.
“I started evaluating this policy last week following the terrible events in Minneapolis and believe now is the right time to make this change,” Nisleit said. “Effective immediately, I have placed a stop on the use of the carotid restraint among our police department. I have heard from the community, and the department wants to work toward strengthening our community partnerships to keep all San Diegans safe.”
With protests occurring in San Diego and across the country after Floyd’s death, Faulconer has directed three city advisory bodies to hold emergency meetings this week to discuss with residents strengthening community- police relations and updating the SDPD’s de-escalation policies.
The Community Review Board on Police Practices, the Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations and the Human Relations Commission will also hold public meetings to seek community input on proposed changes.
“The city of San Diego is taking a critical step today by banning the use of the carotid restraint,” Gomez said. “As we’ve seen, it is deadly and it is unnecessary. I’m grateful to all San Diegans who are peacefully expressing their frustration and anger. I will always work with you to hold all our institutions accountable.”
Montgomery, chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, agreed with the move.
“I am thrilled with this tangible action taken by Mayor Faulconer and Chief Nisleit to ban the use of the carotid restraint,” she said. “The in- custody death of George Floyd, (which) has sparked nationwide outrage and protest, has further underscored the need for accountability and transparency measures.”
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher also weighed in, asking Sheriff Bill Gore to adopt a similar policy for his regional law enforcement agency.
“Today, I am asking Sheriff Bill Gore to align policies around carotid restraint to be consistent with the San Diego Police Department and make clear that the chokehold technique is not an allowable practice,” Fletcher asserted in a prepared statement.
An analysis by the San Diego Union-Tribune found the San Diego Police Department used the carotid restraint in 574 cases between 2013 and 2018. It was used by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department 474 times during the same period.
California Department of Justice data from 2018 shows that people of color were two times more likely to be put into chokehold restraints than white people across the nation.
Former San Diego mayor and police chief Jerry Sanders said the move was needed for multiple reasons.
“The decision to change this policy is the right one, and yet, we recognize it is but one component of what is needed to fully address this issue,” Sanders said. “What it does right now is remove a flashpoint to police interaction with citizens and, very importantly, it starts the road to discussing meaningful change in police and community relations.”