INFORMATION ON POLICE USE OF
CHOKEHOLDS AND LATERAL VASCULAR NECK RESTRAINTS

ESHB 1054 bans chokeholds and lateral vascular neck restraints.

What is a chokehold?
A chokehold restricts the airway when pressure is applied to the front of the neck.


What is a lateral vascular neck restraint?
A lateral vascular neck restraint, also known as LVNR or stranglehold, restricts blood flow to the brain.

Is inadequate training the problem with chokeholds and neck restraints?
No. Although police say that chokeholds and lateral vascular neck restraints are safe when properly done, they are difficult to do in the moment and should not be used against persons with mental health or substance use or disorders, or with medical issues. The American Medical Association has stated that the implication that there is a safe way to do carotid restraints is “simply false.” JAMA Neurology December 2020.


Are chokeholds and neck restraints banned anywhere in the Country?
Colorado bans them entirely, as do many major cities such as New York City, San Diego, Phoenix, and Minneapolis. In Washington, both Seattle and Gig Harbor ban these tactics.

If chokeholds and neck restraints are banned, what are officers’ options?

De-escalation, batons, pepper spray, fighting hands-on, dogs, rubber bullets.

Why do people say chokeholds and neck restraints are brutal?

Chokeholds and neck restraints are violent and associated with racialized policing instead of community
policing.

Why is discrimination in policing important to this conversation?
Using 2015 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, compared to white residents:
● Black and Latino residents were at least twice as likely to be subjected to threats of force when police
initiated an interaction.
● Black Americans are more likely to be stopped by police on the street or in traffic stops
● Black and Latino residents are more likely to have repeat contacts, especially traffic and street stops.
● Native Americans have the highest rate of fatal encounters, followed by Black Americans.


Black Americans are subject to force by police more than any other community. According to the Center for Policing Equity, if you are Black, you are two to four times more likely to have force used than if you are white.

“A study in Seattle randomly assigned officers to receive training in procedurally just policing, leading to a reduction in use of force of between 15% and 40%, depending on the situation (Owens, E., et al., Criminology & Public Policy, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2018).”

We have to take violent tactics off the table to stop the harm being done to Black Americans


Police have demonstrated time and again that they do not exercise restraint or discernment when engaging force tactics, especially against Black and Brown people. We can reduce the chances that police will rely on bias and stereotypes by limiting access to some tactics and putting in place a state-wide standard on the use of force. (See HB 1310.) Washington Coalition for Police Accountability 3-16-21

Relevant Resources


Paul Butler, author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men, says
“The U.S. criminal justice system is constructed to control Black men.” Washington Post. September 2020 Bill Smock, police surgeon with the Louisville Metro Police Department, said both neck restraints are perilous, even in police training. He knows of at least three officers who suffered strokes during training when the techniques were used on them. “There is no such thing as making it safe with proper training,” Smock said. “Any pressure to the neck is dangerous and can cause serious physical injury, rips to the artery, damage to the internal organs, stroke and death. I don’t care what you call pressure to the neck, it is all strangulation, and it is all dangerous.”


American Psychological Association What works to reduce police violence. October 2020.
“A study in Seattle randomly assigned officers to receive training in procedurally just policing, leading to a reduction in use of force of between 15% and 40%, depending on the situation (Owens, E., et al., Criminology & Public Policy, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2018).”


Business InsiderResearch Based Methods of Reducing Police Violence. June 2020
“Police departments that have more restrictive policies around what use-of-force methods are allowed are much less likely to kill people.”


Brad Garrett: A Three-Part Plan to Reduce Police Brutality and Make Cops Better. June 2020 “Police academy training must go beyond firearms and defensive tactics. Instead, it should emphasize communication skills and methods for recognizing and de-escalating potentially violent situations. Some academies do teach officers how to de-escalate confrontation, but not to the extent necessary and not as often as they should after the officer is sworn. A critical part of this training is to teach officers how to avoid escalating encounters in the first place.”


Medpage Today, What Police Chokeholds Can Do to The Brain. June 2020
“When carefully applied in a controlled, martial arts setting, the chokehold rarely results in medical complications. In the more uncontrolled law enforcement situation, there may be a potentially violent or aggressive detainee and/or an under-trained law-enforcement professional, often suffering a “fight or flight” adrenaline response. This may result in excessive or poorly performed technique and increases the risk of anoxic brain injury, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, or trauma to neck structures. The latter may include carotid dissection, tracheal collapse, or bony fracture.”


Nature: What the Data Say About Police Brutality & Racial Bias –Which Reforms Might Work.June 2020
“Stoughton also emphasizes the role of racial bias in society, as evidenced in the months leading up to Floyd’s murder by the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, by two white men while he was jogging in Georgia, and by a white woman’s 911 call to falsely report being threatened by a Black birdwatcher in New York City’s Central Park. “I have become convinced that we do not have a race problem in policing,” says Stoughton. “Rather, we have a race problem in society that is reflected in policing.”