Justice Department limits use of chokeholds and ‘no-knock’ warrants

Justice Department limits use of chokeholds and ‘no-knock’ warrants
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Federal law enforcement officers will be prohibited from using chokeholds and “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorized and will be severely limited from using no-knock entries, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The controversial techniques have been deployed by law enforcement in a number of high-profile police-involved deaths in recent years.

“In the wake of a number of recent tragedies, law enforcement around the nation is reexamining the way it engages with individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a memo released Tuesday.

“I am directing the Department’s law enforcement components to revise their policies to explicitly prohibit the use of chokeholds and the carotid restraint technique unless deadly force is authorized, and to limit the circumstances in which agents may seek to enter a dwelling pursuant to a warrant without complying with the ‘knock and announce’ rule.”

While the memo is directed at federal law enforcement agencies and does not mention high-profile deaths of civilians who died by the hands of local police officers, the Justice Department acknowledged that “the use of certain physical restraint techniques — namely chokeholds and carotid restraints — by some law enforcement agencies to incapacitate a resisting suspect has too often led to tragedy.”

It has been longstanding Justice Department policy that law enforcement and correctional officers are allowed to use deadly physical force when necessary. But “given the inherent dangerousness of chokeholds and carotid restraints, and based on feedback from our law enforcement components on these techniques, department law enforcement agents and correctional officers are hereby prohibited from using a chokehold or a carotid restraint unless that standard of necessity for use of deadly force is satisfied,” Monaco wrote.

Leaders for these federal law enforcement agencies, including task forces, are directed to inform personnel about the policy chance and to make sure it is appropriately incorporated into training.

Monaco has also directed DOJ to limit the use of “no knock” entries that’s connected to the execution of a warrant. If an agent has a reason to believe that announcement themselves at a suspect’s home would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and or another person, the agent must first get supervisory approval from both a federal prosecutor as well as the agent’s law enforcement component.

Congress is considering limits on chokeholds and no-knock warrants as part of a police reform bill that has been stalled for months. The “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” that cleared the House in March includes proposed bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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