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Carotid Neck Hold: Myth vs. Reality

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 37 Issue: 3 Dated: (March 1989) Pages: 31-34
A G Sharp
Date Published
4 pages
Police departments that are continuing to use the carotid neck hold (choke hold) or that have decided to use it for the first time should carefully train officers in its use beginning at the academy level, make officers aware of its potential physical complications and liabilities, and emphasize its use only for self-defense and only when this force is required for personal safety.
This hold has received extensive public attention as a result of reports of deaths due to its use. Opinion is divided regarding whether or not the hold is worth the controversy associated with it. In fact, only 30 percent of police agencies recently polled report authorizing the use of the hold, even though 37 percent of their police academies teach it. Another 30 percent have banned their use. More importantly, 64 percent of those now authorizing the holds would stop using them if they received ample proof that they are lethal. Nevertheless, 58 percent of the respondents consider the hold an effective technique, while 18 percent believe it to be ineffective, and 24 percent are unsure. Any department using or considering the carotid neck hold must consider the possibility of liability judgments, particularly because alternatives exist that lack the same risk inherent in the neck hold. The departments currently authorizing it enforce guidelines to monitor its use to ensure that it is used as a last step before the use of a gun or other deadly force. Some departments submit victims to medical examinations, and one uses a computer to track each use of force and to take corrective measures when abuse is detected. Although the hold is controversial, it is effective and will be a viable technique as long as police officers need to protect themselves. Photographs.