Sheriff suspends choke hold option for training and field operations

Sheriff Chad Bianco, seen here speaking to press during a cannabis enforcement activity at the Riverside County Sheriff's Command Center at Hamilton High School, has banned the use of chokeholds by all Riverside County Sheriff Deputies. Diane Sieker photo

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco has ordered all deputies to cease using an established neck-holding technique to restrain suspects, in the face of pending changes to California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training protocols.

Bianco’s June 10 decision to remove the “carotid restraint control hold” from the field and training is partly a response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Sunday for the California POST Commission to eliminate the technique from all training regimens.

AB 1196, written by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, also seeks to make the use-of-force option illegal. Gipson’s bill is awaiting a hearing in the state Senate.

The carotid restraint control hold, also known as the “choke hold” or “vascular hold,” entails wrapping an arm around a resisting suspect’s neck to interrupt consciousness by applying pressure to the carotid artery.

Widespread condemnation of the technique and other law enforcement use-of-force applications has ensued in the wake of 46-year-old George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis. The officer who held a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes has been charged with murder, and three other officers who did not intervene are also being prosecuted.

According to a sheriff’s statement, the POST Commission informed the agency that any training on carotid restraint control will not be done under the auspices of the state.

“While we are continuing to review our department policies and procedures and to conform with POST training standards, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has immediately suspended the use of the carotid restraint control hold by all sheriff personnel, as a force option, until further notice,” according to the agency statement.

Instructors at the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center in Riverside are now prohibited from demonstrating or employing the technique for recruits or any other purpose, officials said.

Other law enforcement agencies throughout the state are making similar changes.

During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Karen Spiegel pointed out that in the sheriff’s 369-page policy manual, there are specific guidelines for use of choke holds.

She noted that the manual for contains clear instructions on use-of-force methods — including the duty of one deputy to intervene when another may be resorting to excessive tactics while arresting someone.