Davis Suddenly Announces Ban on Carotid Control Hold in Wake of Governor’s Policy Announcement

The city of Davis on Friday suddenly announced that they had changed their policy on carotid holds, commonly known as chokeholds—which have become controversial in light of the recent death of George Floyd, caused when an officer put his knee to his neck, and of course in light of the infamous chokehold on Eric Garner in New York that led to his death and the launching of the police reform movement.

On Friday afternoon, Chief Darren Pytel texted the new policy: “Due to the potential for inflicting unintended serious bodily injury, officers shall not use chokeholds, strangleholds, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints, Carotid Restraints, chest compressions, or any other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck.”

He confirmed, “I just made the change.”

The governor at 4 pm on Friday put out a policy revision announcing new policing and criminal justice reforms, including new standards for crowd control and use of force in protests.

In the release he called for “the end of the carotid hold and other like techniques in California, directing that the carotid hold be removed from the state police training program and state training materials. He committed to working with the Legislature on a statewide ban that would apply to all police forces across the state.”

“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.”

The change locally by Chief Pytel was rapid and marked what would appear to be a large reversal from earlier in the week, when the chief defended the hold to the Police Accountability Commission.

He noted in comments to the commission that the carotid control hold was reserved for “situations where the person is violent and other reasonable tactics don’t work.”

He said in “the carotid control hold, the vast majority of people if it’s correctly applied will recover.”  As a result, he said, “many departments have not completely banned it.”

He said there is a movement to ban them, but said most places still allow them to be used in a situation where deadly force is authorized.

“There are times when officers have to engage a person in physical combat and they are unable to get to other tools that they have – such as a taser or baton or something like that,” he said.  “In those cases where deadly force would be authorized then the carotid control hold or a bar arm may be an appropriate technique to use in order to save a life.”

In an email to the Vanguard on Friday morning, Chief Pytel sent the policy that existed up until Friday afternoon.

It explained, “Carotid Control Hold: Any technique which is applied in an effort to control or disable a person by applying pressure to the carotid artery, the jugular vein, or the sides of the neck with the purpose or intent or effect of controlling a person’s movement or rendering a person unconscious by constricting the flow of blood to and from the brain.”

It continues: “The proper application of the carotid control hold by a trained officer may be effective in quickly restraining a violent individual. However, due to the potential for inflicting unintended serious bodily injury, the carotid control hold or a neck restraint is only justified when deadly force is authorized.”

It further notes, “Any individual who has been rendered unconscious by the carotid control hold or a neck restraint shall be placed in a position of recovery and receive prompt on-scene medical attention. The person shall be continuously monitored until medical treatment is provided. Careful consideration shall be given to not place the person in a position that would restrict breathing.”

Chief Pytel noted, “This subject has obviously gotten more attention these last few weeks and there is still public confusion regarding what a chokehold is and isn’t. Furthermore, what was witnessed during the death of George Floyd was not in any way shape or form an authorized restraint technique or something that could be categorized as a hold.”

Given that the carotid control hold was previously only authorized with deadly force, the chief pointed out, “(California) adopted the most stringent and contemporary use of force standard in the country through AB 392, which took effect January 1, 2020, and SB 230, which takes effect on January 1, 2021.”

The governor also noted, “This announcement follows the work California did last year to enact the nation’s strongest standard for police use of deadly force.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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52 Comments

    1. David Greenwald

      The word suddenly seems warrant – timeline:

      7 am – email from Chief Pytel clarifying the carotid control hold policy
      4:30 pm – Governor sends out press release with policy ban
      5:07 pm – Text from Chief Pytel with the new policy

      That’s pretty dang sudden as these things go.

      1. Alan Miller

        I noticed the same thing about the sudden use of the world suddenly in the headline, but after reading about the reversal in the text, it was suddenly a correct use.

  1. Edgar Wai

    When a normal citizen is attacked in close-range, using a chokehold to defend their life can be considered justified self-defense. Doing so is not a cause to be fired by their employer.

    When a police officer is attacked in close-range, using a chokehold to defend their life would get them fired.

    1. John Hobbs

      “When a police officer is attacked in close-range, using a chokehold to defend their life would get them fired.” Of course in George Floyds case THE COPS’ LIVES WEREN’T THREATENED nor are they in 99% of the cases where unarmed citizens are MURDERED under color of authority.

      I find I need to emphasize this for most readers of the Vanguard who seem to be unable to accept reality. US cops are out of control. They need to stand down.

      As Tia points out, cops have multiple means short of lethality to protect themselves in non-lethal situations. They choose lethal means because the dead can’t testify against them.

      1. Alan Miller

        “When a police officer is attacked in close-range, using a chokehold to defend their life would get them fired.”

        What are you quoting?  I don’t see this anywhere.

    2. David Greenwald

      But that’s the thing Edgar – they aren’t normal citizens.  They are representatives of the government – a government that does not or at least should not put civilians at risk.

      I think police agencies need to reconsider even further rules of engagement for using deadly force.  Basically this isn’t a military.  The is a free and democratic society.  And the rule should be that civilians should not be put at risk even to save themselves.  Sometimes it means that a bad guy gets away and sometimes that could mean that an officer might put his life at risk.  But without those rules, we no longer have a free society, we have a police state.  Police officers need to understand this before they put on their uniform, not after.

        1. Edgar Wai

          Sometimes it means that a bad guy gets away and sometimes that could mean that an officer might put his life at risk.

          I think you are misunderstanding the possible situations.

          I wasn’t support chokehold as a mean of law enforcement. I am defending against the concept that unarmed self-defense can be outlawed for any profession or any person.

          If a crime is not worth using deadly force to stop, and chokehold is a deadly force, then the officer already cannot engage the suspect with the intention to use deadly force to enforce a law. The law already does not allow the officer to put themselves and the suspect at life-threatening risk to enforce a law that is not life-threatening.

          A way it could work is this:

          The police is not allowed to use any technique not explicitly specified in the police protocol.
          The police protocol is completely created and maintained by the people. (The police protocol does not contain anything not approved by the people.)
          The police is not allowed to use police budget on training any technique not in the protocol.
          Chokehold is not in the protocol.
          Any person is allowed to use deadly force for self-defense in a life-threatening situation.
          When a police officer uses a chokehold for self-defense, the action is not a justified police action, but it is justified self-defense action. The court would rule that the officer is forgiven because the officer is a human being.
          While the officer is not guilty as a human being, the police department would fire (or reprimand) the officer according to the police protocol because that is a separate contract between the police department and the people.

          If you don’t have any objection about the above. I think the most important thing remains making the police protocol open and approved by the people (Point 2).

          My opinion is that the People-authorized Police Protocol should not reprimand an officer for what they do as an act of self-defense in good faith. If a court could rule (in Point 6) that the self-defender acted in good-faith, the same person should not be discriminated by its employer. This means that the employer can’t fire or reprimand the officer for defending their own life.

          Defending one’s own life is a basic human right. It is liberty to life. Trying to take that away violates the free part in “free and democratic society.”

           

        2. Edgar Wai

          Short answer:

          Law enforcement shall not make their own rules on how to enforce the law. That is a big loop hole. As long as they make their own rules (rules not approved by the people), they shall be held accountable even if they are following such rules.

          Law enforcement rules shall be made by the people. When that happens, enforcement officers shall be free of any responsibilities from execute the protocol approved by the people. The people is responsible for the damages created by the protocol they create.

        3. Richard McCann

          Edgar

          We ask our military to accept risk to their lives, and they sign up knowing these risks. The police are in the same situation–they must accept personal risk if they choose to serve. On the other hand, there are many other means for police to reduce those risks through systemic change. This must not be looked at as a minor tweak in the status quo. It’s the status quo that must change and we need to start somewhere.

          Further, defending one’s own life is not necessarily without consequences and tradeoffs. The police officers are given special additional powers beyond the average citizen. That means for officers the added cost of acting to save their life is the possibility of going to prison. I think we also need to rethink attorney client privilege in the situation where non disclosure might lead to further serious crime. Attorney’s who choose to non disclose in that situation should also be subject to prison terms. We think too simplistically about these situations.

      1. Alan Miller

        Oh, Edgar, the invisible man.  To me.  Because DG still hasn’t repaired my account.  I wonder who else I cant see?  Well, let’s see, I don’t know, because I can’t see them, and there’s no list, and there’s no way for me to reset my account.  Who puts in preferences that are easy to accidentallllly hit and then impossible to correct?  The davis Cvangard!

  2. Tia Will

    Edgar

    Your tweet is accurate as written. However, it neglects significant points.

    1. The police officer is paid specifically to accept the risks of his/her job while the civilian is not.

    2. The police officer has taken a vow to protect and defend. The civilian has not.

    3. The police officer has many other skills and weapons at their command. The civilian does not.

    My goal is to promote the health and well being of all. An integral part of that goal is the reduction of violence in our society whether by civilians or the police.

    1. Edgar Wai

      About Point 3:

      Chief Pytel explained that chokehold is not a normal restraint technique. It is the same category as deadly force.

      “In those cases where deadly force would be authorized them the carotid control hold or a bar arm, may be an appropriate technique to use in order to save a life.”

      The point was that if an officer got their gun taken by the attacker, distancing is not going to help the officer save himself or others on scene. Why can’t the officer use a chokehold?

      If deadly force is allowed in a situation, why is unarmed deadly technique disqualified in the same situation?

      1. David Greenwald

        In the scenario where the chokehold is deemed to be the only means by which the officer could survive, you can perhaps argue before a board that it was justified.  But that greatly elevates it away from the points at which it was clearly misused.

      2. John Hobbs

        “Chief Pytel explained that chokehold is not a normal restraint technique. It is the same category as deadly force.”

        SO how did that apply in George Floyd’s case? He was restrained, NO THREAT TO ANYONE, MUCH LESS THE COP WHO MURDERED HIM. The point you are either missing or intentionally gloss over is that cops use deadly force as their default when dealing with black men. Even when those black men have committed no crime in front of them and they have NO REASONABLE OR ARTICULABLE belief that a crime has been committed.

        1. Edgar Wai

          “SO how did that apply in George Floyd’s case?

          It does not:

          Chief Pytel noted, “This subject has obviously gotten more attention these last few weeks and there is still public confusion regarding what a chokehold is and isn’t. Furthermore, what was witnessed during the death of George Floyd was not in any way shape or form an authorized restraint technique or something that could be categorized as a hold.”

          He meant that Davis PD was not authorized to use a chokehold in George Floyd’s situation, and what the officer did (kneel on neck) was not a chokehold.

        2. John Hobbs

          I am having difficulty determining if you are truly or intentionally so obtuse. Choke hold, knee on the throat, it doesn’t matter to the family of George Floyd and countless other victims of police homicide. It is past time to stop legalized police murder.

        3. Richard McCann

          Edgar

          You’ve watched too many police TV shows. The number of incidents in which police are are deadly close combat situations is minuscule. In all of the incidents that are cited as abuse of police power, I cannot recall a single one in which officers were in deadly close combat. However, I can think of several incidents in which a chokehold led to an unjustified death, most notably Eric Garner (and that was a chokehold).  You need to come up with a real world example of where you’ve seen this situation occur.

          The fact is that no rule can cover all situations and there will always be situations that fall outside of the broader cases. You need to show us that chokeholds in close combat are used more often than chokeholds in standard restraint situations. I doubt that you can make your case. So we go with the general rule and look for the very rare exceptions that you are trying to point to. Those are best dealt with inside the police review and judiciary system as exceptions.

      3. Tia Will

        Edgar

        Police Chief Pytel did say it was to be used only in situations in which deadly force is already authorized. However, he also stated that in the majority of cases, the person restrained will survive the hold. So, in his own words, they literally are not equivalent. One is supposedly an attempt to save a life, while the others are last-resort methods to take a life to save one’s own or that of an innocent individual. I cannot believe, that believing in this distinction, an officer acting in good faith would not choose the maneuver less likely to kill, while an officer not so constrained might apply that same hold in a manner so as to kill without accepting the full responsibility for his action.

        1. Edgar Wai

          Tia,

          I don’t understand your reply.

          Chokehold is a technique that you stop an attacker (make them unconscious) so that they can be handcuffed (and arrested). Yes, it is potentially deadly.

          Firearm is also used to stop an attacker. If possible, firearms are not used to kill the attacker, but to make them unable to cause more harm and be arrested. Firearm is also potentially deadly.

          Are you trying to argue that a chokehold is a more lethal deadly force than using firearm? If not, why should chokeholds be banned?

          Are you trying to argue that firearms are better than chokeholds if the officer may choose? If so, why should chokeholds be banned when an officer could lose their firearm? (You could change the priority instead of banning chokehold.)

    2. Edgar Wai

      About Point 1:

      It is true that the people shall decide what a police officer shall or shall not do. Therefore I am discussing this issue as a fellow person who has equal right in discussing what the police shall be allowed to do given the pay. Police officers not willing to perform as described can quit.

      It may not be significant, but there is a philosophy that a job can be designed to be inhumane.

      For example, a job can be designed as, “Miners assume the risks while working inside the mine. The employer is not liable for any deaths or accidents inside the mine. Their salaries includes all possible compensations for their work injuries.”

      In such philosophy, a job designed to neglect a person’s right to self-defense can be considered inhumane.

      “You job is to make peace. If you ever find yourself unarmed in a deadly fight, you may not use chokehold to save your life even the attacker apparently tries to kill you. You signed up for this job, you knew the risk. In such situation, your own choices are let yourself get killed and remain innocent and honorable for your department, or we would prosecute you for your crime and for bring dishonor to your department.”

      I am trying to tell you there is a thing as “inhumane job description.”

      People defending themselves should not be barred in a job description. Such rule makes the job inhumane.

      1. Tia Will

        Edgar,

        At no point did I say a policeman should not be able to defend himself if in a truly “life or death” situation. However, I think it is naive if not disingenuous to not consider this within the context of past and present actual cases. Not in just one community but across the nation.

        Tamir Rice, Philando Castille, Stephon Clarke, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. All victims of situations in which the police officer used lethal force in situations in which they either were in no danger themselves or had created the situation themselves. I do not want the chokehold to be taught routinely as a weapon in their arsenal, be told to use it only in life-threatening situations at a time when it has become common to claim fear for one’s life when indeed no such threat existed.

         

        1. Edgar Wai

          I have not heard of any department claiming that “kneeling on neck” was proper restraining technique. Have you?

          Do you see the difference between:

          1. Putting an officer accountable for using the wrong force in the wrong situation. Addressing this would address the wrong doers.

          2. Forbidding an officer from using a technique that could save lives. Address this would harm the good doers, but not necessarily bring wrong doers to justice.

           

          Do you know what techniques remain that an unarmed officer may use to defend themselves in close-combat?

    3. Edgar Wai

      About Point 2:

      If you can accept that deadly force can be justified in some cases to protect and defend, then there exist a situation where unarmed deadly force is also justified to protect and defend.

      Could you explain why armed deadly force is allowed, but not unarmed deadly force?

  3. Tia Will

    I want to congratulate and thank Chief Pytel for this decision. I know it was not your first choice, but appreciate your willingness to consider the voices of others. For me, any step away from violence and excessive force is a welcome one.

      1. John Hobbs

        “I’m hesitant to go there Tia.”

        Me. too. He has demonstrated a keen sense of self-preservation throughout his time with Davis PD, saying and doing what he believes will preserve his job.

        1. Tia Will

          John

          I do not doubt your words. However, I am fine with job preservation as long as it aligns with a stronger, healthier community. In this case, I believe it does.

      2. Tia Will

        I truly believe it takes a village David. In my career, I did not always start out on the best solution side of an issue. If one can be persuaded ( or “forced” as you say) and they act accordingly, that is worth celebrating.

        1. John Hobbs

          ” that is worth celebrating.”

          When police act like part of the community they are sworn to serve, instead of its masters, that will be worth celebrating.

          Until then they are the most dangerous and deadly gang in America. The numbers don’t lie.

           

      3. Bill Marshall

        He was forced to make the change after defending it vigorously all week.

        OK, now we’re getting down to it… who “forced” him?

        “Vigorously”?  Words have meaning/nuances…

        Flat out… David, are you calling out Chief Pytel as a craven opportunist?

        Before you answer, understand that I knew, and deeply respected his Mom, and have come to know one of his sisters as a friend. Worked occaisionally with him when I served the City…

        You are using inflammatory language… please put up with verifiable evidence, or STFU.

        Pytel is far from perfect… no one is perfect.  But you seem to be bent on demonizing him, and/or saying he is a wimp.  He is not a wimp… he is a person doing his best, and you can disagree with his decisions, or the timing, but you seem to be going far beyond that…

        I have often disagreed with Darren’s “calls”… but I believe he is a capable, honest, forthright person.  Not sure if I can say the same for you, David… given your post and comments today… but just my opinion.

  4. Alan Miller

    DG, JH – hesitant to go there

    TW, RG – went there

    AM – not going to pretend that I know enough about a police engagement tactic that I would be able to judge whether it should be banned in all situations or not.

  5. Richard McCann

    It’s good that the the City took this step, but it’s disappointing the Pytel appears to be behind the curve. He did appear at the BLM rally that ended at the policy station today, and no other police officers were present or accompanying the march (despite it closing several streets along the way). The police chose to trust the citizenry and that was a positive step.

    1. Alan Miller

      The police chose to trust the citizenry and that was a positive step.

      I doubt it.  DG was trying to say recently that there were no police at the massive anti-Katehi rally in 2011, but as I stated a friend knew many of the officers and how to “make” an undercover officer, and pointed out several to me.  It was actually hilarious when they pointed them out, because it was really obvious their behavior was odd once you knew what you were looking at.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll bet there was either a presence in the crowd or very nearby just out of site.  That isn’t a criticism.  There has to be a balance between show-of-force and just-in-case tailored for any event.  Achieving that isn’t easy, especially in the most anti-police atmosphere in the US in modern times.

  6. Jim Frame

    the BLM rally that ended at the policy station today, and no other police officers were present

    My wife was there and told me that a uniformed officer was right behind Pytel, at least when the “blue lives matter” guy began stirring things up.

  7. Tia Will

    John

    I understand and at times share your concerns about police as currently constituted. Honest question. How would you proceed so as to end current police excessive use of force and protect the population from the truly dangerous individuals who do walk amongst us?

    1. John Hobbs

      ” protect the population from the truly dangerous individuals who do walk amongst us?”

      Can you site an example where that has happened? The police can arrest someone after they have committed an act, but are almost never there to prevent one. While a re-screening/re-training program is in place the National Guard could police their own neighborhoods. Many cities and counties look at policing as revenue generating and don’t want “honest policing.”  The system is rotten to the core.

  8. Tia Will

    David

    The governor is the one who deserves the credit here – he pushed the envelope forward. Chief Pytel deserves credit for making a quick change and not trying to fight it, I suppose.”

    Precisely the point I was trying to make. When the Governor makes a pronouncement, all officials have essentially three options.

    1. Openly announce and adopt the new policy.

    2. Accept and quietly implement

    3. Actively oppose in some public fashion up to and including refusal to enforce as we have seen in some areas with COVID-19 restricts.

    My appreciation was for Chief Pytel’s adoption of the first course of action in a timely fashion.

  9. John Hobbs

    I have had a nagging uneasiness about all the Davisites suddenly talking about the value of Black lives and your sudden realization that black lives have been under-valued. Then in a Zoom meeting with other civil rights activists this afternoon, when regional reactions were discussed it was clarified by a local attorney who reminded us that “Davis was just fine with Sean Thompson assaulting our mayor, a black life that didn’t matter a damn to them.” I have to say that resonates with me.

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