Politics

Newsom calls for California ban on police head restraint technique


Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he wants to standardize rules that vary across local governments. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom called Friday for California to prohibit a police head restraint technique and to regulate how law enforcement agencies across the state manage protests as demonstrations continue over the death of George Floyd.

The governor wants to end a technique for subduing suspects, known as the carotid restraint, that entails officers wrapping their arms around suspects’ heads and applying pressure. It comes after Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

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Newsom is directing the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to remove the carotid restraint from official training materials and said he would back legislation from Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) to ban it statewide.

“Across this country we train techniques on strangleholds that put peoples’ lives at risk,” Newsom said.

A spokesperson for the training commission said in a statement that the organization “looks forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature in regards to the best practices and standards for California’s law enforcement.”

Some local law enforcement agencies have already moved to phase out the technique in the days after Floyd’s death. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department have both halted its use, as have other city police departments in San Diego County, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said he wants the city to review whether police should be able to use it.

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California already has one of America’s toughest standards for when law enforcement can use lethal force thanks to a bill Newsom signed into law last year that allows it only when necessary to prevent imminent death and injury. But Newsom said it was not enough.

“It hasn’t stopped violence,” Newsom said. “It hasn’t stopped the mistrust.”

Crowd control techniques have come under a magnifying glass after protesters flooded California streets in response to Floyd’s death. In California, officers have drawn criticism for responding to protesters with disproportionate force, including by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds.

Newsom said Friday he wants to standardize rules that vary across local governments and mean “we’re not seeing people treated equally all around the state of California.”

“Protesters have the right not to be harassed. Protesters have the right to protest peacefully. Protesters have the right to do so without being arrested, gassed, be shot at with projectiles,” Newsom said.

As fury over Floyd’s death and law enforcement’s response has crescendoed around the country, Newsom has increasingly broken with President Donald Trump’s calls for a heavy-handed approach to subduing protesters — a noticeable return to the confrontational positioning toward the White House that Newsom had set aside during the pandemic.

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Newsom this week rejected Trump’s call to deploy armed troops as “another zig and a zag and deflection from an administration that’s on the ropes” and denounced as “shameful political theater” Trump posing for photos at a Washington, D.C. church after federal law enforcement cleared peaceful protesters out of the way.

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