How dangerous is a chokehold?

Over the years, police have used a number of different tactics to stop and apprehend suspects while they are in the streets. Some of these methods have caused controversy and are no longer in use due to the potential to cause more harm than necessary, including serious injuries or death.

What are chokeholds and why are they a problem?

Police officers can use various forms of restraint, or even weapons to take unruly suspects into custody depending on the situation. Chokeholds are one technique that police officers used on suspects that were found to be extremely dangerous, even though they had received formal training regarding these methods. People had died or been seriously hurt while being taken into police custody because they cannot breathe normally while being choked and deprived of air.  Many police departments now either consider this method to be an unnecessary or excessive use of force, and victims can seek legal remedies if they are harmed during an attempted arrest that involves a chokehold. 

Eric Gardner’s death

The high profile case of Eric Gardner in 2014 brought national attention to the use of chokeholds and the possibility that people could be killed by officers in this manner. 

NYPD officers were attempting to arrest Gardner for illegally selling cigarettes on Staten Island. After a verbal argument, police tried to handcuff Gardner, but he moved away. Their interactions then became more violent. 

Video clips of the attempted detention of Gardner showed an officer putting his arm across Gardner’s neck and later pushing against his face. Gardner can be heard complaining that he cannot breathe. After their struggle, Gardner died from compression to his neck and chest area while being restrained. The autopsy concluded that the death was a homicide caused by attempted physical restraint during the altercation. 

The officer responsible was placed on desk duty, but he was never prosecuted criminally and was not fired from his position until years later. Gardner’s surviving family members received a settlement for several million dollars from New York City. 

After this incident, police officers in New York were subjected to costly retraining programs regarding chokeholds and use of force protocols. There were also a number of protests, as the case received a lot of media attention and remained a national talking point related to police brutality for quite some time afterward. 

Regulations regarding chokeholds 

After this incident and pressure from the public, some jurisdictions passed laws to prevent the use of a chokehold, unless it was a situation where the officer was authorized to use deadly force to prevent further harm. Previously, departments could have adopted their own policies to regulate chokeholds and similar uses of force while detaining suspects, but large scale exposure to this problem caused government entities to get involved. 

Lawsuits for excessive use of force

While police can use some level of force to protect themselves and others in the area, making an arrest does not require violence in most cases. Victims of police violence can file lawsuits to protect their civil rights and receive compensation. 

Learn more about the possibility of suing the police 

If you have been harmed by a police chokehold or any other use of excessive force, it is recommended to talk to a police brutality lawyer. The listings on USAttorneys.com contain contact information for legal professionals in your state.

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