Why police depts. discourage choke holds, or ban them outright

The death in New York of an asthmatic man from Staten Island has again focused attention on police departments and the use of choke hold restraints.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The death in New York of an asthmatic man from Staten Island has again focused attention on police departments and the use of choke hold restraints.

Many police departments are now taking a second look at policies, while others are training officers in a different type of hold.

The New York City Police Department bans the choke hold or any restraint that puts pressure on the neck.

More: No charges in NYC choke hold death; federal inquiry launched

Michael Allen, who is a certified martial arts instructor in Charlotte, explained why many police departments also ban, or at least discourage, choke holds.

"The choke hold, when you are dealing with decompression of the trachea -- a lot of things can go wrong," he said.

In a common choke hold the forearm goes across the throat of the person to be restrained.

Allen said, "You could crush the trachea, the esophagus. You could permanently damage something in the throat."

And cutting off the air supply could be fatal.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department does not ban outright the use of the choke hold, but does limit the use to incidents where an officer feels his or her life is in danger.

The Gastonia Police Department's policy is similar.

Captain Michael Lari said in a statement, "…policy strictly prohibits the use of choke holds unless an officer is authorized to use deadly force against a suspect."

Michael Allen demonstrated another type of hold that some department train their officers to use.

It is commonly called a "sleeper" hold.

"In essence it cuts blood off to the brain, which will cause someone to lose consciousness," he said.

"You release it, the blood comes back. It's a lot safer than cutting off the oxygen and the airways and something going wrong," said Allen.

Allen cautions there is really no 100 percent method of restraining someone with a guarantee they won't be injured.


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