In the years leading up to George Floyd’s death with his neck beneath the knee of a Minneapolis policeman, at least 58 people lost consciousness after the city’s officers put them in neck restraints, according to a CNN analysis of use of force data from the police department.
Officers used neck restraints on 428 people since 2012, and 14% lost consciousness, the data showed. That means the procedure, which is restricted or banned in many large police departments around the country, was used an average of about once a week in the city over that time period.
About two-thirds of the people placed in neck restraints by Minneapolis officers were black — in a city where black residents make up 19% of the population, according to Census data.
Use of force experts told CNN that the procedure that officer Derek Chauvin used — pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for several minutes, as Floyd groaned that he couldn’t breathe — wouldn’t qualify as a proper neck restraint under the city’s policy and procedure manual.
But the Minneapolis department does allow officers to compress “one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway,” according to a section of the manual that is marked as last being updated in 2012. It calls the method a “non-deadly force option.”
Authorities charged Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He’s due to appear in court later this month. His attorney has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
What happened to George Floyd was ‘crazy inappropriate,’ expert says
Seth Stoughton, an associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina who’s written a book about police use of force, said many large police departments banned neck restraints after protests in the 1960s, following criticism that similar chokeholds resulted in fatalities.
He said he thinks Minneapolis should also prohibit it except when officers are facing a serious, imminent threat to their safety.
What Chauvin did to Floyd was “not a neck restraint,” Stoughton said, calling it “crazy inappropriate.”
“Properly applied, a neck restraint is relatively safe,” Stoughton said. “The problem is that it’s really difficult for officers to apply properly, and there’s a high risk that it’ll be applied improperly.”
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