Minneapolis Police Knee on Neck Policy: MPD’s Restraint & Chokehold Rules Before & After George Floyd’s Death

minneapolis police knee on neck policy

Getty People gather in a Manhattan park to protest on the first day of the trial for the killing of George Floyd last May on March 08, 2021 in New York City./Derek Chauvin's mugshot.

The Minneapolis Police Department updated their use-of-force policy and training manual, which now bans neck restraints and chokeholds. That policy changed after the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Jurors will be asked to determine whether former MPD officer Derek Chauvin violated policy when he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, and whether his death constitutes unintentional murder or manslaughter.

MPD allowed the use of neck restraints at the time of Floyd’s death, unlike many other departments in the state. However, the knee-on-neck tactic had limits in its use, and prosecutors contend that Chauvin violated policy by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, and continued the restraint tactic after Floyd said he could not breathe. Exhibit A in the case details a medical examiner’s findings on Floyd’s cause of death and toxicology.

Jury selection for Chauvin’s trial began Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Government Center. The death of Floyd, 46, was captured on video and served as the catalyst for Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. A charge of third-degree murder was previously dropped and reinstated as his trial approached. He also pleaded not guilty to that charge.

Here’s what you need to know:

Minneapolis Police Allowed the Use of Neck Restraints & Chokeholds at the Time of Floyd’s Death

At the time of Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Police officers were authorized to restrain a person with a knee on the neck in certain situations. Few police departments in the state allowed that type of neck restraint, but in Minneapolis the use-of-force tactic was authorized as a “non-deadly force option” in certain circumstances, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The tactic was billed as a way to restraint a person who was thrashing by placing pressure on the side of the neck. It was a tactic taught until at least 2016. However, the restraint should be released once the threat stops, Mylan Masson told the Star Tribune. Masson was a longtime Minneapolis police officer and former director of the Hennepin Technical College law enforcement and criminal justice education center, where about half the state’s police officers are trained.

“Once the [officer] is in control, then you release,” Masson said. “That’s what use of force is: You use it till the threat has stopped.”

Officers were only authorized to use the restraint if they were properly trained in the tactic, which involved applying pressure with an arm or a leg to one side of the neck, without restricting the airway.

Exhibit A in the Chauvin case presents toxicology findings that say Floyd ingested a fatal dose of fentanyl before his death and said there was no physical evidence Floyd was asphyxiated, while an independent medical examination found Floyd died from asphyxia.

MPD Updated Its Training Manual Friday, March 12, 2021 & Bans Neck Restraints & Chokeholds

The Minneapolis Police Department issued an update to its training manual on Friday, March 12, 2021. The new training manual makes it clear that neck restraints and chokeholds are not permitted. Those tactics were banned shortly after Floyd’s death.

“Neck Restraints and choke holds are prohibited, in accordance with the section in this policy (P&P 5-302) covering neck restraints and choke holds,” the training manual says under “Limitations on the Use of Certain Restraints.”

The bodily force section, also called “empty hand tactics,” also addresses neck restraints.

“Neck restraints and choke holds are considered separate control options under this policy (and are not included as bodily force),” the manual says.

A separate section under “Code of Conduct and Use of Force” details the prohibition and bans teaching the tactic in training.

It says:

Prohibition on Neck Restraints and Choke Holds

Neck Restraints and choke holds are prohibited. Instructors are prohibited from teaching the use of neck restraints or choke holds.

MN Statute section 609.06 Subd. 3 (b) defines a choke hold ‘as a method by which a person applies sufficient pressure to a person to make breathing difficult or impossible, and includes but is not limited to any pressure to the neck, throat, or windpipe that may prevent or hinder breathing, or reduce intake of air. Choke hold also means applying pressure to a person’s neck on either side of the windpipe, but not to the windpipe itself, to stop the flow of blood to the brain via the carotid arteries.’

The training manual further says that body cams must be activated during a use-of-force situation. In situations where use of force results in serious bodily harm or when an officer discharges a firearm, that footage becomes public information, the manual says.

A Minnesota Statute Took Effect March 1, 2021, Which Updated Authorized Deadly Force

Minnesota State Statute 609.06 was updated in 2020 and took effect March 1, 2021. The statute was updated to define authorized use of force by law enforcement. The statute also bans chokeholds. The latest update to the statute describes deadly force as “a critical responsibility.”

The statute says:

The legislature hereby finds and declares the following:

(1) that the authority to use deadly force, conferred on peace officers by this section, is a critical responsibility that shall be exercised judiciously and with respect for human rights and dignity and for the sanctity of every human life. The legislature further finds and declares that every person has a right to be free from excessive use of force by officers acting under color of law;

(2) as set forth below, it is the intent of the legislature that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life or to prevent great bodily harm. In determining whether deadly force is necessary, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the particular circumstances of each case;

(3) that the decision by a peace officer to use deadly force shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation, based on the totality of the circumstances known to or perceived by the officer at the time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, and that the totality of the circumstances shall account for occasions when officers may be forced to make quick judgments about using deadly force; and

(4) that peace officers should exercise special care when interacting with individuals with known physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities as an individual’s disability may affect the individual’s ability to understand or comply with commands from peace officers.

It also lays out the circumstances that deadly force is permitted. Deadly force can be used when an officer has reason to believe – based on the knowledge the officer has at the time – that deadly force is necessary to protect themselves, the public or another officer, or when it is necessary to prevent escape if that person may pose a risk to the public.

The statute says:

Subd. 2.Use of deadly force.(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 609.06 or 609.065, the use of deadly force by a peace officer in the line of duty is justified only if an objectively reasonable officer would believe, based on the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time and without the benefit of hindsight, that such force is necessary:
(1) to protect the peace officer or another from death or great bodily harm, provided that the threat:

(i) can be articulated with specificity by the law enforcement officer;

(ii) is reasonably likely to occur absent action by the law enforcement officer; and

(iii) must be addressed through the use of deadly force without unreasonable delay; or

(2) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the peace officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony and the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or great bodily harm to another person under the threat criteria in clause (1), items (i) to (iii), unless immediately apprehended.

(b) A peace officer shall not use deadly force against a person based on the danger the person poses to self if an objectively reasonable officer would believe, based on the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time and without the benefit of hindsight, that the person does not pose a threat of death or great bodily harm to the peace officer or to another under the threat criteria in paragraph (a), clause (1), items (i) to (iii).

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