Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department will tighten limitations on the use of chokeholds, carotid restraints, and no-knock entries by its agencies.
The announcement comes as police departments face greater scrutiny over use of force incidents that have resulted in deaths and injuries in recent years. Many activist groups have campaigned for more openness in law enforcement, as well as defunding and/or greater mental health training.
“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” Garland said. “The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.
“As members of federal law enforcement, we have a shared obligation to lead by example in a way that engenders the trust and confidence of the communities we serve,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “It is essential that law enforcement across the Department of Justice adhere to a single set of standards when it comes to ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ entries. This new policy does just that and limits the circumstances in which these techniques can be used.”
Unless the use of fatal force is allowed, federal law enforcement officials will be forbidden from employing chokeholds and carotid restraints under the new standards. “When the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the subject of such force constitutes an imminent danger of death or significant physical injury to the officer or another person,” the Justice Department says.
The use of chokeholds on suspects has come under fire, especially since the murder of Eric Garner in New York City in 2014. He died from compression of his neck and chest, as well as his prone posture on the ground, while being held in a chokehold by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner, who suffered from asthma, told the cops several times that he had asthma. “I’m having trouble breathing.”
The new Justice Department standards also restrict the use of no-knock entries to the execution of warrants in cases when agents believe that knocking and announcing before entry would put them in danger of physical harm.