In Response to Protests San Diego Police End Use of Choke-Hold, Sheriffs Continue to Use It

by on June 2, 2020 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

The San Diego Police Department announced Monday, June 1 that it is immediately ending its use of the choke-hold or carotid restraint, a move motivated by the George Floyd protests, both locally and nationally.

San Diego Sheriffs will continue to utilize it on suspects, as Sheriff Bill Gore told KUSI Tuesday.

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted numerous elected officials and the police chief praising the decision. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, at a press conference Monday, stated SDPD officers “will be stopping the use of the carotid technique, effective immediately.” In a written statement, Faulconer said:

“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.”

During the news conference, SDPD Chief David Nisleit said, “We know that the carotid restraint is something that makes people very angry.” The carotid hold “stops immediately. It’s the right thing to do for our community. It’s the right thing to do for our officers.”

The SDU-T:

In such a hold, officers use an arm to put pressure on the sides of a person’s neck. If it’s applied correctly, the person can fall unconscious.

It can lead to injury or death and has been banned or restricted by other large police departments.

Critics say it is used disproportionally on people of color and have been asking the city for years to discontinue its use.

San Diego police leaders have previously defended the move, saying they have used it safely hundreds of times and that it can help end potentially dangerous encounters quickly before they escalate.

San Diego officers applied the move 574 times between 2013 and 2018. On Monday, Faulconer said officers used the restraint about 70 times in the last year.

City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery also was in favor of the decision and stated the policy change “is a big win for our community groups that have called for an end to carotid for many years.”

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno issued a statement saying she strongly supports ending the use of the hold: “This is an excellent, long overdue first step, but more must be done.”

The policy change has been called for by community activists, and even staged a car-demonstration in Faulconer’s neighborhood in Point Loma over the weekend.  They have also demanded the creation of an independent police commission. In response, Faulconer said Monday that the proposal for an independent police commission will be on the fall ballot and he plans to give it his full support.

The proposed commission would be required to independently investigate all police-related deaths and officer-involved shootings, and could choose to investigate other complaints made against officers. The new board would be independent of the mayor and the San Diego Police Department, and it would have legal counsel and subpoena powers.

In contrast, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department still permits it and teaches it. The department contracts to provide law enforcement for nine cities in the region, and also covers unincorporated areas.

The Times of San Diego reported that County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher has called upon the Sheriff’s Department to change its own chokehold policy.
“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,” he said in a statement.

“I commend San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery and Council President Georgette Gómez for their leadership in driving this policy change. The inequities we see across communities are real. The impact this is having on our communities of color are real.”

Fletcher cited a May 2019 analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribune that found the San Diego Police Department used the carotid restraint in 574 cases between 2013 and 2018; and 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 folks across the nation,” a Fletcher news release said.

The Times of San Diego reported on a number of important developments locally on the issue:

Monday evening, a 450-word letter signed by nearly four dozen city and school elected officials throughout San Diego County said “deep rooted systemic problems in our society, including law enforcement, must be addressed.”

Four local mayors — Catherine Blakespear of Encinitas, Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, Paul McNamara of Escondido and Racquel Vasquez of Lemon Grove — said they stood in solidarity with their black communities.

“Daily events such as the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Ms. Taylor and Mr. Arbery need to be reviewed with full transparency and must not be normalized,” they said.

San Diego City Council signatories were Gómez, Montgomery, Vivian Moreno, Chris Ward and Jen Campbell.

“If we are in this space, we must do more than we are currently doing. We must be better allies,” the letter said. “We must create and fight for systemic change.”

Also signing the letter were council members (but not the entire councils) from Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Lemon Grove, Solana Beach, Vista and school board members from Carlsbad Unified, Chula Vista Elementary, Encinitas Union, Oceanside Unified, San Marcos Unified, South Bay Union, Southwestern College and Vista Unified.

Carlsbad Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel said she collaborated in writing the letter with Imperial Beach Councilwoman Paloma Aguirre, Encinitas Councilwoman Kellie Hinze, Vista Councilwoman Corinna Contreras and Escondido Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez.

She told Times of San Diego that a few independents but no Republicans signed the letter.

“All signatories were collected and signed [Monday],” Bhat-Patel said via email. “It took less than a day to put this together. We will urge more of our colleagues to sign on.”

A news release on the letter said the “legitimacy of law enforcement is challenged when applied unevenly allowing persistent racism to deny accountable and equal protection under the law. Explicit improvements are required to establish trust and earn the confidence required to achieve peace.”

Later, Gómez — a Democrat running for Congress in Rep. Susan Davis’ 53rd District — issued a release calling for supporters to “sign my petition calling on Congress to implement a nationwide ban on carotid restraint.”



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