DOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries

DOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries
© Washington Post/Pool

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday that it would be significantly restricting agency use of chokeholds, carotid restraints and no-knock warrants moving forward, a decision that comes as national police reform legislation has stalled in Congress.

“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy DOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership Texas sues Biden administration over guidance on transgender worker rights MORE said in a statement.

“The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability,” he added.

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Under the new policy, chokeholds and carotid restraints will be allowed only if deadly force is authorized, which requires an officer to have “reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

Similarly, no-knock warrants will now be reserved for situations “where physical safety is at stake” and will require approval from a federal prosecutor and the officer’s law enforcement entity.

The decision is the latest in a string of moves that have demonstrated the DOJ’s rededication to police oversight under the new attorney general.

Garland has opened pattern-or-practice reviews of the police departments in Louisville, Ky., Minneapolis and Phoenix since his confirmation in March.

Columbus, Ohio, announced last week that its police force would be subject to a different form of DOJ probe through the agency’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and on Monday, Garland signaled that new best practices for federal monitors who provide oversight in consent decrees would begin to be implemented. 

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Chokeholds and no-knock warrants are at the center of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths served as major catalysts for last year’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that demanded an end to police brutality and systemic racism.

Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020 when the cop kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder in April and sentenced to a 22 ½-year prison sentence in June.

Plainclothes Louisville police officers conducting a no-knock warrant shot and killed Taylor in her home in March 2020.

Police were granted the no-knock warrant under the belief that Taylor's ex-boyfriend had been using her apartment as a place to keep drugs and money, but neither was found there.

The city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family in September, though none of the officers involved in the warrant were directly charged for Taylor’s death.

The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March for the second time, but the legislation — which would bring sweeping changes to policing in the U.S. — has since languished in Senate purgatory.

Unlike the ongoing partisan battle over voting rights, the issue has received greater bipartisan support, with Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Bass says she is 'seriously considering' running for LA mayor MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.) engaging in high-level negotiations over the bill throughout the spring and early summer.

The trio announced in June that a framework agreement on the bill had been reached, but no further progress has been made.