On Monday, a proposed bill to ban a neck hold commonly known as a ‘sleeper hold’ by police in California received widespread approval by both houses of the Legislature and the Governor.
A ban on the carotid artery hold
The bill, written by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), would make use of the carotid artery neck restraint punishable by law. The restraint, still used by many police and sheriff’s departments in California, is a hold where both sides of the neck are squeezed. This blocks blood flow through the carotid arteries, resulting in reduced movement and unconsciousness. While the hold wasn’t the type used on George Floyd last month, the carotid ‘sleeper hold’ has resulted in the deaths of Californians by police, including a well-publicized Bakersfield incident four years ago.
Assemblyman Gipson, along with other supporting lawmakers such as Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), brought up the new bill during the already compressed session because of the outcry after the death of George Floyd, as well as years of studies and complaints showing that the hold can injure or even kill those being detained.
“We have to change a culture of excessive force that seems to exist among some members of law enforcement,” said Speaker Rendon during a press conference. “This bill will end one brutal method that police use for restraining people.”
Assemblyman Gipson also highlighted the “force” aspect of the hold.
“We all witnessed this execution,” Assemblyman Gipson said. “This was far beyond the existing law that authorizes a peace officer to use reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape or to overcome resistance. These methods and techniques are supposed to save lives, but they don’t. They take lives.”
After being introduced on Friday, the bill immediately received widespread support. The Asian-Pacific, Black, Jewish, Latino, and LGBTQ legislative caucuses threw their support behind the bill along with many Republicans reaching across the aisle. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced his support for the bill during a press conference.
“We have a unique and special responsibility here in California to meet this historic moment head-on,” said Governor Newsom. “We will not sit back passively as a state.”
Governor Newsom also announced that should the bill be passed by both houses he would sign it into law.
Mixed law enforcement reaction
While the bill, seen widely as an extension of last years signed “stricter use of police deadly force” bill AB 392, has had a large group of supporters, reaction among law enforcement organizations has been mixed.
Many cities and counties have already banned it for law enforcement use, including the San Diego Police and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. However, some police groups have noted that it has its uses in detaining a suspect.
Former police officer Leo Martinez explained the indecisiveness.
“It’s different now of course, but this was taught during my day, and up until I retired last year, it was still being taught,” expressed Martinez. “I actually practiced on someone in the academy and knocked him out for several seconds. It’s that effective.”
“But it does hurt and can harm the person it’s being done to.”
“I honestly didn’t use it that much. We have several things to choose from in the field. We have pepper spray and tasers now, for example.”
“And the big thing is we only use these if we have to. I only drew my gun once and never fired it on duty. I used a taser only once in detaining someone, and as for the hold I only did that twice. People almost always complied with orders, and force was a last resort or to be used in an emergency situation.”
“Personally I think it should instead be limited to certain situations, but I also do see why it’s being banned. With everything else an officer is equipped with, we can still do our jobs.”
The carotid neck hold ban bill is widely expected to be passed by both houses and signed this year.
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