Justice department bans chokeholds and no-knock raids for federal officers

Justice department bans chokeholds and no-knock raids for federal officers
New policy will only allow chokeholds and no-knock raids when lethal force is authorised

The US Department of Justice has announced it will ban chokeholds and “no-knock” entries throughout the department.

The change will prevent federal law enforcement officers from conducting unannounced raids and from using “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorised.

“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.”

Both carotid restraints and no-knock raids have been the focus of public scrutiny in recent years.

Breonna Taylor was killed when police in Louisville were executing a no-knock raid at her apartment. Chokeholds and other restraints meant to restrict blood flow to the brain drew widespread criticism after the death of George Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes.

“As members of federal law enforcement, we have a shared obligation to lead by example in a way that engenders the trust and confidence of the communities we serve,” Deputy Attorney General Monaco said. “It is essential that law enforcement across the Department of Justice adhere to a single set of standards when it comes to ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ entries. This new policy does just that and limits the circumstances in which these techniques can be used.”

Federal agents generally have to announce their presence before conducting raids. However, if agents have legitimate reason to believe announcing their intention to enter will create a situation leading to imminent violence, they can execute a “no-knock” raid but just breaking down a door and entering a building. Under the new policy, the conditions under which no-knock raids are acceptable will be limited.

The department noted that it was not eliminating the raids altogether as they may still be circumstances where a no-knock raid is necessary.

“The policy does recognize, however, that there may be rare circumstances when there is justification – other than physical safety – to execute a ‘no-knock’ entry,” the press statement said. “If an exception is sought when there is no imminent threat of physical safety, the agent must first get approval from the head of the law enforcement component and the U.S. Attorney or relevant Assistant Attorney General before seeking judicial authorisation for a ‘no knock’ warrant.”

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