San Diego police

Materials Given to SDPD Recruits Included Training on Banned Carotid Restraint

The carotid restraint is banned throughout California, but NBC 7 Investigates found it was still being included in training material for SDPD recruits almost a year later

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After the 9-minute and 29-second video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd made its way to San Diego, thousands of protestors marched for weeks calling for police reform.

In response, the San Diego Police Department reversed its longtime defense of a controversial maneuver - the carotid restraint - and banned its use.

Like dominoes, other law enforcement agencies in our county, from Carlsbad to National City, followed. The hold is now also banned statewide.

“There had been advocates fighting for the end of the carotid restraint for a very very long time,” City of San Diego District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said. “It was the right thing to do.”

To an untrained eye, the restraint looks a lot like a chokehold, but with a major difference. Instead of restricting airflow, the holder places pressure on two sides of a subject's neck near the carotid arteries blocking blood flow to the brain, thus, rendering the subject unconscious.

But one year after police in San Diego banned its use, NBC 7 Investigates has confirmed the policies and procedures given out to SDPD recruits still include the carotid restraint.

San Diego Police Department Procedure Policy 1.08 describes how to perform the technique, and called it an "approved method."

We asked SDPD why the banned restraint was still included in materials given to future officers. 

The department sent NBC 7 a statement saying in part:

"The CD-Rom that was being handed out was not properly vetted to ensure the latest policies and procedures were contained … no law enforcement recruit in the state is being taught how to use the technique including SDPD recruits."

That's because the academy removed the hold from its training when it was banned last year.

“Maybe it was an oversight,” said Montgomery Steppe. “I’m not sure. This is the first I’m hearing of it. But it should absolutely be banned, and there should be no reference to it.”

Nurse and community activist Buki Domingos has called on police to ban the restraint since 2017. She said its inclusion in the material handed to recruits undermines her faith in real police reform.

“I think that is a huge insult to our community,” Domingos said. “Especially the grassroots organizations like ours."

It’s important to note, local policy changes went beyond banning the carotid restraint. Many local departments also updated or introduced de-escalation policies. Last fall, San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to create an independent police oversight commission. Last month, the District Attorney lifted all gang injunctions, and right now the San Diego City Council is working on an ordinance restricting police surveillance.

"We’ve been doing quite a few things but it’s an evolving discussion for sure,” Montgomery Steppe said.

Over the phone, an SDPD spokesperson thanked NBC 7 for bringing the outdated material to the department's attention. He said the department will update the file and create new material immediately.

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