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Police Panel: Neck Restraint Should Be Labeled Deadly Force

The Honolulu Police Department headquarters
Casey Harlow/HPR

A Honolulu Police Department committee said a neck restraint should be designated as a “deadly force” option in the department’s use-of-force policy.

Honolulu Police Commission member Richard Parry said the department's Use of Force Committee favors moving vascular neck restraint to the same category that includes the use of firearms, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The police department lists the restraint in the “intermediate” use-of-force category, which includes the use of batons.

The department suspended the use of the vascular neck restraint in June while reviewing its use-of-force policy in response to the killing of George Floyd.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. His death prompted protests across the U.S. and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

Parry said two other significant changes to the use-of-force policy recommended by the committee would require officers to intervene if they see other officers “doing something inappropriate” and to “de-escalate use-of-force situations whenever possible.”

A final draft of the changes will go through the department's ranks, while Chief Susan Ballard holds the authority to approve or reject new policies.

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers will be able to review the proposed policies. But Parry said union approval is not necessary for adoption.

Union President Malcolm Lutu had not yet read the recommendations but said they did not appear particularly prohibitive.

“If they keep the vascular neck restraint still on the use-of-force continuum but place it more as a deadly force, I have no problem with that,” Lutu said.

The neck restraint is not used often, but is a useful tool when taught and implemented properly, Lutu said.

Lutu worried greater restrictions on officers will force them to wait until they are attacked before being able to respond.

“It’s coming to the point where we can’t do anything until somebody does something to us, which is not what police work is,” Lutu said. “We didn’t join the job to get assaulted, to get shot at.”

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