Police officers in Maryland and all across the country are permitted to apply various levels of force ranging from physical control to lethal force. The reality is, police officers need options when it comes to applying force as each situation they encounter may require a higher or lesser degree of it depending on the circumstances surrounding the matter. Of course, police should never resort to lethal force, that is, unless they feel it is necessary and their life is in danger.
While it is pretty clear that police are permitted to get physical with a combative suspect or pull out their firearm on someone who poses as a threat to an officer, what isn’t clear is whether chokeholds fall somewhere on the use of force continuum police are expected to abide by.
Here’s What We Know About Chokeholds
Chokeholds have become an outdated use of force tactic and many police departments have established rules prohibiting its officers to rely on this method as a way to subdue a suspect who is resisting arrest or has become violent. Still, there are plenty of officers who place a suspect in a chokehold despite it having the ability to take someone’s life. The reality is, many of the suspects who police come in contact with are often suffering from a mental health disorder, are high on drugs, or struggle with another type of medical condition that places them at a heightened risk of death when placed in a chokehold.
Sadly, there are still police officers who find themselves employing this tactic even when they do not have reasonable grounds to do so which has ultimately cost many innocent individuals their lives.
Let’s take a moment to revisit a case from 2014 involving an officer who applied a fatal chokehold to an unarmed man who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
His name was Eric Garner and most of us have grown to know him by the last words he managed to mouth out while being held in a chokehold by a NY police officer. Garner had helped break up a fight nearby to a convenience store and shortly after, he was approached by officers who had responded to the fight. They accused him of “selling untaxed cigarettes” [Source: Time]. When police attempted to arrest Garner, he questioned why the officers were “targeting him,” and that’s when things escalated.
A NY officer placed Garner in a chokehold, “a technique banned by the NYPD,” which cut Garner’s air supply off. The father of six “had a history of health problems” and after telling the officers 11 times in desperation that he couldn’t breathe, he was dragged to the ground where he died soon after. Garner’s story has become widely recognized by many, including advocates for the Black Lives Matter Global Network and he is remembered by his last three words spoken, “I can’t breathe.”
Here’s what you should do if you or someone you know was placed in a chokehold by an Arnold, MD police officer.
Police officers are not permitted to apply deadly force when they do not have reasonable grounds to do so. In the event an officer did apply force (i.e. assault you, place you in a chokehold, etc.) although the situation did not require it, they could be held liable for applying excessive force. If you would like to speak with a police brutality attorney in Arnold, MD to find out if you have a legitimate case on your hands and what your next steps should be, contact Murnane & O’Neill.
Murnane & O’Neill can be reached at:
7425 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd.
Glen Burnie, MD 21061