Imagine you are a local police officer and you are being attacked with no backup — what do you do? I’ll tell you what you do: You fight because your life depends on it. That means doing whatever is necessary to ensure your survival.
What Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was repulsive and inexcusable, and the officer’s abuse of power and excessive use of force cannot be tolerated. In response to Derek Chauvin’s heinous crimes, the call to regulate police officers has grown exponentially. One of the most aggressive regulations some are calling for is eliminating the “chokehold” from police training.
The graphic video of Floyd being murdered has stirred a movement to make use of chokeholds a criminal offense.
Recently, the New York State Assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which has now been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Essentially, the bill states that any police officer who injures or kills somebody using a “chokehold or similar restraint” can be charged with a Class C felony — punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
In George Floyd’s case, Derek Chauvin’s use of choking was sadistic and unnecessary, but does one bad incident mandate the regulation of the rest of the nearly 900,000 police officers that currently serve our nation? No.
While upping the legal ante for holding police accountable for excessive force might sound like the best course of action, statistics indicate otherwise.
The Annual Review of Criminology has found that re-engineering the “social and technical systems” of police departments can better effect change than increasing punishments for offending officers.
In other words, for the state legislature of New York to come together and attempt to enact “change” in the system without processing what could prove to be a more effective route is just a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Of course, this does not mean that police officers should use the chokehold at stoplights or normal investigations at all. In fact, the need for a chokehold is incredibly rare.
Officers in the Los Angeles Police Department, for example, used the chokehold only seven times in the last five years, the Los Angeles Times reported. Furthermore, of every incident that involved the chokehold within the state of California, 74 percent of police officers had been attacked.
I’m not sure how many readers have been in a fight, but when someone provokes you physically, they have entered the ring of self-defense. It is not about how you can ensure that they are done attempting to harm you; it is about knowing that they will no longer hurt you.
Ed Obayashi, a deputy sheriff, police training advisor and legal advisor for Plumas County, is a defender of the chokehold. He argues that the number of serious injuries is incredibly low for the number of altercations that even occur. The reason for the use of a successful chokehold is to subdue a threat when an officer is by himself in an intense situation.
Not only has there been a need for the use of a chokehold in some situations; it has also been a crucial part of survival.
“I know cases where deputies have had to fight for their lives and they were by themselves. We won’t take away that option from them given the solitary nature of policing in these counties,” Obayashi told the Times.
For police officers to be sent into the field, they must be fully equipped not only to protect the community but also to protect themselves. I do not believe that chokeholds should be applied in most situations. In fact, it is probably best that they are avoided altogether. However, stripping the police of their right to protect themselves in difficult situations should not be permissible.
As Americans, we cannot sit by and watch the government pay police officers low salaries and now take a method of one of their defenses away.
It is time that we hold those accountable who do wrong but uplift and help guide our local officers who are just trying to provide for their families and ensure our safety.
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