Contra Costa DA bans use of carotid restraint technique

DA Becton applauds Gov. Newsom’s signing of Safer Streets for All Act
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton has implemented a new policy banning the use of the carotid hold technique for peace officers within the DA’s Office. Senior inspectors within the DA’s Investigative Unit are peace officers.

The carotid restraint technique has an officer putting pressure to the sides of the neck to block blood flow to the brain to render the person unconscious. It was not the technique used in the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, who had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, causing asphyxiation.

While many police departments have long banned so-called chokeholds that put pressure on a person’s windpipe, the carotid restraint, otherwise known as a sleeper hold, remains allowed in a number of agencies.

Some law enforcement experts say the carotid restraint, when executed properly, is an effective way to subdue a detainee without causing traumatic injury. But the tactic has been linked to injury and death.

“The use of the carotid hold has proven to be an unnecessary and deadly police technique and will not be used by members of my Investigative Unit. The risks associated with this technique far outweigh any potential benefit,” Becton said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to remove the carotid restraint from official training materials. Meanwhile, legislation called AB 1196 aims to make it illegal for law enforcement agencies to use the restraint tactic.

In Richmond, the use of carotid restraint is not allowed per the Richmond Police Department’s policy manual, according to an analysis posted in Mayor Tom Butt’s e-forum. However, Richmond doesn’t have language explicitly banning all chokeholds, the analysis states.

The issue of “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations on use-of-force policies will be taken up by the city’s Richmond Community Police Review Commission on Wednesday, July 1.