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St. Helena Police Department bans ‘carotid control holds’

St. Helena Police Department bans ‘carotid control holds’

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The St. Helena Police Department has eliminated “carotid control holds” from its handbook, effectively banning a tactic that’s come under heavy scrutiny across the U.S.

The department’s handbook, a legally binding code of conduct, had stated that officers trained in the technique could use it to restrain a combative subject under very specific circumstances. None of the department’s officers have undergone such training, so in effect the hold was already not allowed.

Police Chief Chris Hartley announced the decision at a special City Council meeting on Thursday following a review of the department’s policies that Vice Mayor Paul Dohring requested in March, months before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police triggered a passionate nationwide discussion of law enforcement tactics.

In June, the Napa Police Department restricted the use of the carotid control hold except during a deadly force scenario.

Hartley said the department’s training regimen covers areas like firearms, the use of less lethal weapons, the use of force, racial bias and defensive tactics.

In some cases, St. Helena officers are trained more frequently than required by state law. For example, officers undergo training in firearms four times a year instead of the one required by the state.

St. Helena officers also undergo training in topics that are not legally mandated at all, such as de-escalation, dealing with mentally disabled people in crisis and – starting next year – LGBTQ issues.

Hartley, who issued a statement strongly condemning the killing of Floyd, invited public comments about the department’s policies and pledged to participate in an ongoing review of the department that could include a community survey. He encouraged people to email shpd@cityofsthelena.org, an address accessible only to Hartley and members of the council.

Since 2005, there has been only one use-of-force complaint lodged against a St. Helena officer, Hartley said. That complaint, lodged by a fellow officer in 2006, was investigated and determined to be unfounded by Hartley himself.

Dohring said he wants to delve into policies concerning topics like body cameras, tasers, and the return of personal property to subjects who’ve been detained by police.

“I want this dialogue to continue,” Dohring said.

At a subsequent meeting, the council will discuss “racial equity, social equity and how it ties into our policies and procedures,” said Mayor Geoff Ellsworth.

Watch now: St. Helena police, firefighters wish Raymond Monroy a happy 108th birthday

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.

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