Tool or torture? Retired Tampa Bay officer weighs in on chokeholds amid nationwide controversy

8 On Your Side

Some in law enforcement at odds with national push to ban neck restraints

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) — Police departments nationwide are banning the use of chokeholds in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed.

In the Tampa Bay area, some agencies had already done away with neck restraints and have since doubled down on policies to outlaw them.

The Tampa Police Department hasn’t used them since the 80s, per Mayor Jane Castor, codifying that practice into official department policy earlier this month.

“The carotid restraint is not authorized,” Castor said in a press conference last week, referring to a method of rendering a person unconscious by restricting the flow of blood to the brain by compressing the sides of the neck where the carotid arteries are located.

An NYPD officer was arrested and charged on Thursday after video showed him apparently using illegal neck restraints on another man. While the NYPD bans them, a 2013 Department of Justice report found that at least 43 percent of major metropolitan police departments allowed neck restraints of some kind.

A movement to ban chokeholds keeps gaining momentum following deaths like George Floyd and Eric Garner. It’s one of the eight facets included in the #8CantWait police reform campaign.

But police academy instructor and retired Tampa Bay area cop Dave Bryant has a more controversial take.

“The fact is that chokes save lives,” he told 8 On Your Side.

As a force science analyst who testifies on use of force in court, Bryant argues that banning neck restraints can actually result in more deadly force, not less.

That’s because he believes that when used properly, carotid restraint can briefly knock a suspect out so the officer can end a fight, ultimately creating a safe and effective alternative to lethal force when resistance turns dangerous.

“And if our goal is to reduce the number of deadly force incidents, we should try to put as many tools in our toolbox as possible to avoid that,” Bryant explained.

The key Bryant says is proper technique. He points out that chokeholds are routinely used in martial arts, even with children, and are nothing like what he saw used against George Floyd.

“I can’t think of any justification for having my knee on someone’s neck for 8 minutes,” he said.

The Tampa Police Department declined to comment on this story.

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