by Katharine Zavoda ‘25
Published Oct. 16th, 2021
Due to the rise of police brutality in recent years, the American Justice Department has started enforcing policies banning federal law enforcement from using chokeholds, and has placed restrictions on no-knock warrants. Police and law enforcement can no longer use chokeholds and similar carotid restrictions as restraint techniques, and are also unable to enter homes or private dwellings without announcing their presence. There will only be exceptions to these bans in serious cases.
Some believe that the issue of police brutality and restraint techniques is something that has only been brought up recently, but that isn’t the case.
Deaths caused by police brutality have been a problem for several years. In 2014, Eric Garner was killed after New York City police put him into a chokehold. In 2019, Elijah McClain was placed into a carotid hold by police officers, dying when paramedics gave him a dose of ketamine without weighing him first. In 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed by police after they obtained a no-knock warrant and raided her home.
The event that brought the most publicity to these issues was the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer at the time, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes as three officers watched on. The chokehold is very much different from the type of restraints that police officers are usually taught.
Floyd’s death brought national attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and shed light on police brutality and its victims, such as Garner, McClain, and Taylor.
The new federal policies are targeting restraint tactics that were used in many high-profile cases of police brutality against Black Americans. The reform efforts which have arisen from these events seek to place more attention on the officers who engage in misconduct, officers who intervene when they see misconduct, equipping officers with body cameras, putting restrictions on no-knock warrants, and banning carotid and neck restraints.
However, police unions may become a problem when enforcing these policies. These unions have gained much support and make it difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. In some cases, the unions have resisted public demands for police reforms, and protected the rights of officers who have been accused of misconduct, leaving the public to wonder when reform will occur and justice will be brought. With the new federal policies and the Black Lives Matter movement though, the nation is getting closer to some much needed change.