San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit brief the press for a second time.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit speak at a press briefing in 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

Fifteen San Diego-area law enforcement agencies announced Wednesday that they were halting their use of the so-called carotid restraint, a much-maligned compliance technique that renders detainees unconscious but can prove deadly if performed improperly.

In a posting on Twitter, county Sheriff Bill Gore stated that he was taking the step “in light of community concerns and after consultation with many elected officials throughout the county.”

The police departments in Carlsbad, Coronado, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, La Mesa, National City and Oceanside announced the same policy change for their sworn personnel over the afternoon and early evening.

The police forces operated by the San Diego Community College District, Port of San Diego, San Diego State University, San Diego Unified School District and UC San Diego also banned the chokehold.

On Monday, the city of San Diego did likewise, citing the widely protested Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who passed out and died after being pinned by the neck to the ground by an officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis. He repeatedly said he could not breathe in the final minutes of his life.

“We are watching the hurt and pain so many people are expressing after the tragic death of George Floyd and are committed to taking new actions to make sure something like this doesn’t happen in San Diego,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

In a carotid restraint — a type of so-called chokehold also known as a “sleeper hold” — an officer applies pressure to vascular veins on the side of a detainee’s neck to render the person unconscious in a matter of seconds. A different type of chokehold puts pressure on the front of the neck and throat, cutting off air, but if done wrong, the sleeper hold can also asphyxiate.

The use of the carotid restraint locally has caused “much concern and frustration by many in our minority communities,” Faulconer said.

The sheriff also said he decided to make the policy change due to input from the community.

“I have and always will listen to any feedback about the public- safety services we provide,” Gore said. “Working together, we can ensure San Diego remains the (safest) urban county in the nation.”

Story updated at 1:31 a.m. June 4, 2020.

— City News Service