Every police department in the U.S. follows its own policy that outlines the conduct that is expected to be displayed by each and every law enforcement officer. Among the topics that are addressed in a department’s policy is use of force. While it is clear that there are various levels of force that an officer can apply, including deadly force, there is much uncertainty when it comes to chokeholds.
Can an officer apply a chokehold on a suspect or are they illegal?
Although many police departments, including the New York City Police Department, have banned officers from applying chokeholds on suspects that cut off their air supply, they aren’t illegal. Essentially what this means is that if an officer whose department issued a ban on utilizing chokeholds to subdue a suspect applies one, they will likely face disciplinary action, especially if the act is considered excessive. However, if an officer applies a chokehold in the manner in which he/she was trained to do so, and the act is considered reasonable, then they may face no type of consequences for doing so.
The incident involving Eric Garner drew much attention to police chokeholds after his cause of death was attributed to a compression of the neck among other things. The officer involved in that incident was accused of applying a chokehold on Garner despite him crying out that he couldn’t breathe.
Understanding the Types of Chokeholds
Although police departments nationwide frown on chokeholds being applied as there are several other tactics officers have been trained to use, there are two different types of chokeholds, one of which some officers may still get away with applying. The first, which is the type that is linked to Eric Garner’s death and has been banned by certain police departments is the hold that cuts off a person’s air supply. An officer who applies a chokehold that is meant to crush a suspect’s windpipe so they are unable to breathe is likely to face disciplinary action for doing this.
However, the second type, which is recognized as a vascular hold, may still be applied by certain officers who are employed with a department that allows it. NPR discussed the difference between a vascular hold and one that is used to cut off a person’s air supply. According to NPR, a vascular hold is done when an officer places his/her “arm around the neck in such a way that the crook of the arm is in front of the Adam’s apple.”
When employing this tactic, the Adam’s apple is not pushed in which allows a person to still be able to breathe. Instead, the hold “puts pressure on the two sides of the neck and “presses down on the arteries leading to the brain.” This tactic “briefly cuts off the flow of blood to your brain, causing the person to pass out for a few seconds – long enough for a police officer to cuff [them].”
What should I do if a police officer applied a chokehold on me?
If an officer applied a chokehold or another use of force and you believe the level of force was unreasonable, that officer may be guilty of applying excessive force. If this is the case, you may be able to file a complaint or lawsuit against the officer and/or department and recover compensation for your pain, suffering, or injuries. To find out if you have a valid case against an officer or department, contact a police brutality attorney in your city. A police brutality lawyer will help you understand what your rights are and the forms of action you can take to combat the harm that was inflicted upon you.