Amid backlash over neck restraints, LBPD suspends use of sleeper hold

The Long Beach Police Department on Tuesday told its officers to stop using a type of stranglehold that’s drawn intense scrutiny during nationwide public outcry over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black citizens at the hands of police.

In a special order issued June 9, the LBPD immediately suspended the use of the carotid restraint, which cuts off blood flow to the brain by putting pressure on a person’s neck.

The technique is different than a chokehold, which cuts off airflow, something the LBPD had already banned because it has been deemed too damaging.

Until recently, the Long Beach police officials had praised the carotid restraint’s effectiveness.

In January, Deputy Chief Erik Herzog called it a “great tactic,” and argued it can prevent other injuries when used properly. But, he said that officers are told to use it as a last resort because of its potentially deadly consequences when executed improperly.

“Our Department recognizes the community’s concern regarding this use of force application and we are responding to those concerns by taking action,” LBPD Cheif Robert G. Luna said. “This is just the first of many steps that we will take to continue to build trust and create equity within the community we proudly serve.”

The carotid hold was not used against Floyd, but the technique—and any tactic aimed at someone’s neck—have been under renewed scrutiny after video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for close to 9 minutes before his death last month.

Much as it did after Eric Garner’s death following an NYPD officers’ chokehold in 2014, the phrase “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for protests that have swept through Long Beach and across the nation.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom and members of the state legislature began calling for an end to the carotid hold. And individual police agencies—including the LAPD, San Diego Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department—began banning or restricting its use.

In an email to its members, the union that represents Long Beach police officers said that pressure is what prompted the change for the LBPD.

“We know there is a strong argument about the effectiveness of the carotid restraint in certain circumstances,” the Long Beach Police Association said. “We do not need to convince our police officers of that—many of you have successfully used the carotid restraint during your careers to safely control violent suspects and to stop dangerous encounters from turning into deadly encounters. We realize that it’s the public who would need to be convinced, not our police officers. And the public has made their voices loud and clear on this issue.”

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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