Another Weapon Taken by the Police
Federal law enforcement officers are no longer permitted to use “chokeholds” unless their lives are in immediate danger, announced the Department of Justice on Tuesday.
Critics say the ban – which is a direct response to the death of George Floyd in May 2020 – will put officers’ lives at risk and may even lead to an increase in shootings.
“A chokehold will not always be used correctly and people may die even if it is used correctly, but is it better for an officer to use a chokehold rather than shoot a suspect? We would say yes,” notes The Bulletin‘s editorial board. “We hope it never comes to that, but taking away the option for a chokehold can dramatically limit the options for a police officer in a life-and-death struggle…Forbidding police from using chokeholds may guarantee more people are shot by police.”
More than 17 states have banned or limited the use of chokeholds by police since Floyd’s death. Before his death, the practice was only prohibited in Illinois and Tennessee.
The state of Vermont took things a step further, threatening police with up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 if they are caught using a chokehold.
“If we say chokeholds are prohibited, police will still use chokeholds,” argues Lorenzo Boyd, director of the Center for Advanced Policing at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. “If we say, ‘chokeholds are now felonies and if you use a chokehold we can now prosecute you,’ I think that would change the narrative.”
Changes at the federal level also include limits on unannounced entires or “no-knock” warrants.
More than 84 proposals to ban or restrict no-knock warrants have been introduced nationwide since the death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020.
Taylor was shot and killed by police after her boyfriend fired a gun at a group of plainclothes officers as they forcibly entered her Louisville apartment during a drug-dealing investigation. Police insist they announced themselves, but Taylor’s boyfriend claims he heard nothing and thought the officers were intruders.
Per the new federal policy, no-knock warrants are only allowed in cases where an officer “has reasonable grounds to believe that knocking…would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person.” In my opinion this policy makes little sense as it is impossible to predict what threats may lie behind a closed door.
On Monday, speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed plans to increase federal monitoring of local police departments to ensure they are complying with standards.
“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” said Garland, adding that federal investigations have resulted in “significant improvements in police departments” nationwide despite causing “frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community.”
The Department of Justice will immediately move forward with 19 separate actions regarding the monitoring of police departments.
“Policing is an indispensable profession,” concluded Garland. And the Department of Justice “cannot fulfill its public safety mission without you and without close collaboration with you.”
Author’s Note: Does a handful of accidental deaths warrant these restrictions on police officers? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.