DORAL, Fla. – The Miami-Dade Police Department will no longer authorize use of the “applied carotid triangle restraint” tactic, director Freddy Ramirez announced Thursday.
The ACTR maneuver — similar to what some people know as a sleeper hold or a blood choke — has come into question amid recent discussions of police use of force.
Ramirez’s statement reads as follows:
“Upon being appointed Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department at the beginning of this year, I began a review process that initiated changes which I believe will help our Department live up to our vision of being the model law enforcement organization in the Nation. ... As a progressive agency, we must remain in a constant state of review and open to emerging best practices and community feedback. As such, I have decided to no longer authorize the utilization of the Applied Carotid Triangle Restraint (ACTR). This decision was based on a multitude of factors to include officer and public safety, feedback from policing professionals, members of our community, local leaders and officials, and recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum.”
The change in policy is effective immediately, and the Miami-Dade Police Department said it will amend its training protocols accordingly.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he supports the decision.
“We know the concerns that the community have about this procedure, and so [Ramirez] made the call and said that will no longer be used by Miami-Dade police,” Gimenez said.
The decision comes amidst calls for sweeping change in law enforcement tactics and the way officers interact with the communities they are meant to serve.
The department had already banned the use of the commonly known chokehold, which involves restraining another person by putting pressure on the windpipe, cutting off airflow.
Local 10 News asked Cesar Serje, a jiu-jitsu black belt and mixed martial arts instructor, to explain how a carotid triangle works. (It’s demonstrated in the video at the top of this page.)
“I’m not attacking the windpipe,” Serje said. “What I’m attacking are the arteries on the side [of the neck] and that’s cutting off the blood, and usually, it’ll take about 5 to 10, by 10 seconds they’ll be passed out.”
The difference in arm placement is slight, but the results are much different. And mistakes can easily happen in the heat of the moment.
“I could cause permanent damage if I’m attacking the windpipe,” Serje said. “The other way, I’m not really attacking, its not going to be permanent damage if I’m not holding it for long periods of time.”
From what we could find, no police departments in South Florida allow for chokeholds unless the situation is life-threatening for an officer.
Earlier in the week, Miami-Dade police sent a letter to the community outlining “where we stand on various issues and policies that have come to the forefront of this important conversation.” In the letter, MDPD said it doesn’t teach or utilize strangleholds or chokeholds, but that each officer was taught the applied carotid triangle restraint “which is a non-lethal application.”
Officers were tested in their proficiency in the maneuver twice bi-annually, the department said.
Hialeah police also said that they have banned ACTR.
They join other South Florida agencies that ban all kinds of neck restraints — including the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Fort Lauderdale police, Wilton Manors, City of Miami and Miami Beach.
Some departments don’t necessarily train their officers to use neck restraints but don’t directly ban or address them in their policies.
Local 10 News also reached out to Miami Gardens police several times to ask about their policies but haven’t heard back.
A look at various police policies on neck restraints
City of Miami Police Department: Police officers are prohibited from utilizing the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR), chokehold, neck hold, and/or any other restraint that restricts free movement of the neck or head or restricts an individual’s ability to breathe. Read more
Fort Lauderdale Police Department: Due to the inherent risk of causing death or serious and permanent brain damage the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR), (sleeper chokehold) or any maneuver or tactic that prevents breathing or obstructs an individual’s airway is prohibited except in cases where it is reasonably necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. Read more
Broward Sheriff’s Office: All neck restraints are banned; only allow for the use of a chokehold in exigent circumstances when deadly force is required. BSO does not train deputies in the use of or performance of chokeholds and it is not an approved technique. Read more
Miami Beach Police Department: The use of the Applied Carotid Triangular Restraint (ACTR) is prohibited.
Miami-Dade Police Department: Banned the use of ACTR on Thursday.
Hialeah Police Department: Banned the use of ACTR on Wednesday.
Wilton Manors Police Department: Banned the use of neck restraints in early June.
Hollywood Police Department: "The Hollywood Police Department’s Response to Resistance policy does not strictly forbid the use of chokeholds or neck restraints. However, a defensive tactic of this type could only be used in a life or death situation where deadly force is justified. To be clear, per Florida State Statute the use of Deadly Force is only justified when a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent: a. Death or great bodily harm to themselves or another; or b. To prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. In addition, the officers of the Hollywood Police Department do not practice or train in this type of technique during departmental in-service defensive tactics training.”
Coral Springs Police Department: “Although a vascular neck restraint is approved technique in the FDLE CMS Defensive Tactics curriculum our department does not train our officers to use this technique. In fact, approximately ten years ago, the Broward County Chief of Police Association (BCCPA) asked the Broward Police Academy to stop teaching the technique. Our current policy does not prohibit a ‘choke hold’ because that is a lethal force response, which when officers are authorized to use lethal force we do not limit which tactic they can use if it is life or death situation.”
Plantation Police Department: “Officers will not use lateral vascular neck restraints (choke holds) to restrain or secure any person except in a situation where deadly force is justified.”