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Justice Department Restricts Use of Strangles and Smooth Entrances by Federal Law Enforcement

Washington – The Justice Department said on Tuesday it would impose strict limitations on when federal law enforcement officials can use chokes and entrances “without knocking,” the latest in a series of measures taken by the Biden administration to strengthen responsibility of law enforcement.

Under the new policies, federal law enforcement personnel are prohibited from using chokes and “carotid restraints” unless lethal force is permitted, which is considered when an officer has a “reasonable belief” that they or another person faces imminent danger of death or serious injury.

The department is also imposing new limits on the use of “no-knock” entries with the execution of mandates. By policy, such entries can only be used when an officer believes there is a threat to physical security. In these circumstances, the officer must receive the approval of a federal prosecutor and his law enforcement element.

If an officer does not anticipate the need for a quiet entry when the warrant has been requested, he may only make such an entry if “urgent circumstances arise at the scene” which would place the officer or another person in danger. In these cases, the officer must notify his supervisor “immediately” and provide a written notice to federal prosecutors.

“Building trust between law enforcement and the public we serve is at the heart of our mission at the Department of Justice,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokes,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no knocking’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to federal DOJ agents, are part of the important steps the ministry is taking to improve the security and accountability of law enforcement. “

The new restrictions on federal law enforcement are the result of a review by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. In a four-page memo to Justice Ministry entities, Monaco said the ministry had determined that it “did not have consistent written policies across its law enforcement components” on the use of throttles or smooth entrances when executing warrants.

Monaco has acknowledged that in many cases the use of strangulations, which restrict an individual’s ability to breathe, and carotid compression, which restrict blood flow to the brain, “has too often led to tragedy” .

Many law enforcement agencies have reassessed physical restraint techniques, as well as no-strike warrants, following the deaths of unarmed black men and women, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor , by the police in recent years.

In the case of Floyd, whose death sparked a national movement for police reforms, a Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd lay on the sidewalk, struggling to breathe. The city of Minneapolis announced in June that it prohibit the use of chokes by the city police.

Taylor was beaten down by Louisville, Kentucky, police last year in a botched raid on his apartment. The night she was killed, Taylor’s boyfriend said he thought the police were intruders when they entered her apartment. He fired his gun at the group and the police began to retaliate, hitting Taylor several times. Following his death, Kentucky promulgated legislation restrict the use of warrants without knocking.

Capitol Hill lawmakers also negotiated a police reform bill that would resolve strangles and no-strike warrants, although the bipartisan group has been unable to reach consensus on a proposal to date.