On Tuesday, The United States Department of Justice announced a new policy limiting the use of chokeholds and “no-knock” entries, among other forceful practices, for federal law enforcement.
The Department’s Office of Public Affairs released a press release detailing the limited use of “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints.” The new policy does not implement a complete and total ban of these techniques, however. Under this policy, federal law enforcement can continue to use chokeholds and other neck restraint methods when the use of deadly force has been authorized.
The limits on “no-knock” entries have also been further restricted. Federal agents are typically required to knock and announce their identity, authority, and purpose before entering a private residence. According to the press release, a federal agent is in full authority to use a “no-knock” entry “in connection with the execution of a warrant to situations where an agent has reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agent’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical violence.” The release states that this differs from prior laws surrounding “no-knock” entries, raising the stakes required to justify one of these actions. Agents still can request an exception from the new policy, though under the new policy both the head of the law enforcement component and the U.S. Attorney (“or relevant Assistant Attorney General) must approve it first.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland says the policy’s new limitations “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.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who leads the Justice Department’s law enforcement agencies, states: “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.” Monaco comments that this new policy allows the Department of Justice to more easily adhere to a set of standards on the forceful techniques the policy ruled on.
The new policy places these limitations on multiple bureaus within the Department of Justice, including (but not limited to) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In an additional memorandum from Monaco, the Department’s “law enforcement components shall immediately revise their policies to reflect this guidance.”
The ban on chokeholds and ‘no-knock’ entries follows another major reform in the Department of Justice. In June 2021, Monaco issued a memorandum informing the Department of a new policy regarding body-worn cameras. This policy requires federal agents to record attempts to serve an arrest warrant and execute a search or seizure warrant via body cameras.
It is worth noting that these policies were on the list of reforms demanded by protestors in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Taylor was wrongfully killed by Louisville police following a “no-knock” entry, while Floyd was suffocated to death by a Minneapolis police officer via a carotid restraint. During months of national protests pushing for police reform, citizens demanded justice for Taylor, Floyd and others who had been killed by police brutality. Now, over 15 months later, the reforms are starting to be implemented.
Featured image: A mural depicting George Floyd, who was suffocated by Minneapolis police in 2020. (C) John Ren / Unsplash.