Justice Department restricts use of chokeholds, no-knock warrants

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Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new restrictions are meant to increase transparency and increase physical safety during arrests. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new restrictions are meant to increase transparency and increase physical safety during arrests. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that the Justice Department will tighten restrictions on when its agencies can use chokeholds, carotid restraints and no-knock entries.

The announcement comes as law enforcement agencies face increased scrutiny over police use of force that has resulted in the deaths and injuries in recent years. Many activist groups have called for increased transparency in law enforcement, defunding and/or better training to deal with mental illness cases.

"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."

Under the new guidelines, federal law enforcement agents will be prohibited from using chokeholds and carotid restraints unless the use of deadly force is authorized. The Justice Department allows such force "when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person."

The use of chokeholds on suspects has come under scrutiny particularly after the 2014 death of New York City man Eric Garner. He died of compression of his neck and chest and his prone positioning on the ground as New York City Police officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a chokehold on the ground. Garner, who had asthma, repeatedly told the police "I can't breathe."

The new Justice Department policies also limits the use of no-knock entries to the execution of warrants in situations where agents believing knocking and announcing before entry would create threat of physical violence.

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