San Diego

Group Calls for Ban of Neck Restraints Used by Law Enforcement

Those who oppose the use of choke holds and other neck restraints say they are disproportionately used on minority groups.

Community members, leaders, professors and activists gathered Monday to call for law enforcement to ban the use of choke holds by officers.

The Racial Justice Coalition hosted a town hall at San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center to discuss restraint policies and put pressure on local agencies to stop using them.

Those who oppose it say it’s disproportionately used on minority groups. Some went even called them inhumane and claimed they can cause permanent damage and death.

SDSU lecturer Dr. Darwin Fishman, the emcee of Monday’s meeting, said most people in San Diego don't know about local restraint policies and said the forum was a great opportunity for them to learn.

“We waited until Eric Garner was killed before we started talking about chokeholds,” Fishman said. “It doesn't have to be the case that we just respond to crisis.”

Buki Domingos, who is a hospice nurse, community organizer and mother to four African American children, at times fears the worst when it comes to her kids and police.

“That's every mother's nightmare, to be called that your son was locked up, or worse, that your son is in the hospital and is brain dead because these are all the things the chokehold can do,” Domingos said.

The San Diego Police Department said officers aren’t permitted to use chokeholds, which are intended to asphyxiate someone, unless their lives are threatened. Officers are, however, permitted to use what SDPD calls the “carotid restraint,” which is a hold designed to compress the carotid artery and make someone pass out.

No matter the hold, or its intent, Domingos isn’t a fan.

“One is not very far from the other and the human neck is not that big,” she said.

Mari Confinco said her 32-year-old nephew died after Anaheim police used the carotid restrain on him in 2016.

“We have to speak on it and not let it sit on the back burner,” Confinco said. “We have to continue to be our loved one's voices."

SDPD used carotid restraints over 570 times between 2013 and 2018, according to data gathered in a public records request. The past two years of data shows almost a quarter of all those restrained were black, though black or African Americans only make up 6 percent of our population.

The department said it revised its neck restraint policy this summer. SDPD’s policy mandates that a person must be taken to the hospital of the carotid restrain is used on them.

Assembly Bill 392, one of the strongest pieces of legislation in the country pertaining to police use of force and the prevention of officer-involved shootings, was signed into law in August. It does not address neck restraints, but the Racial Justice Coalition is attempting to get neck restraints defined as lethal force so they will fall under the same scrutiny.

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