Dozens rendered unconscious by Minneapolis police neckholds in past five years: report

Dozens rendered unconscious by Minneapolis police neckholds in past five years: report
© getty: A memorial lies outside the Cup Foods, where George Floyd was killed in police custody, on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has applied neck restraints at least 237 times in the past five years, rendering the subject unconscious in at least 44 of those cases, according to an analysis of police records by NBC News.

Use-of-force records indicated suspects or other people lost consciousness in 16 percent of cases in which police used a neck restraint, defined as when an officer compresses someone’s neck with an arm or leg without putting direct pressure on the airway.

The analysis follows the death of George Floyd last Monday in Minneapolis. A city police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was face-down on the pavement for a total of eight minutes despite Floyd’s protests that he was unable to breathe. Chauvin continued kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly three minutes after he stopped breathing.

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Numerous police experts and officials told NBC News the technique is neither allowed by nor taught to police departments, including a Minneapolis official who told the network it was banned by the Minneapolis department. However, the MPD’s online policy manual does permit such restraints and guidelines on their use have not been updated in more than eight years.

Attorney and Plumas County, Calif., Deputy Sheriff Ed Obayashi, who provides training for use of force to California law enforcement agencies, told NBC News the potential for killing someone in a neck restraint was “common sense.”

"Any time you cut off someone's airway or block blood flow to the brain, it can lead to serious injury or death as we have seen in so many of these tragedies,” he said. “By using this tactic, it's a self-fulfilling tragedy."

In the majority of the cases analyzed by NBC News in which a person lost consciousness, police applied the restraint after a suspect either fled on foot or tensed up during an arrest, and nearly half of the people who lost consciousness were injured, although the records do not offer specifics on injuries.

The subjects rendered unconscious were 60 percent black and about 30 percent white, according to the network. One person, whose race was not identified in the analysis, was restrained after being deemed “verbally non-compliant” during a traffic stop, it added.