SIERRA VISTA — Sierra Vista's police chief shared information Thursday on his department's use of several techniques after a Sierra Vista councilwoman said earlier in the week that she wants to see an end to police chokeholds, knee holds and officers shooting at moving vehicles in the city.
The procedures are currently banned at the Sierra Vista Police Department, unless the officer’s life or the life of another person are in peril, Police Chief Adam Thrasher said Thursday.
Earlier this week, Councilwoman Kristine Wolfe sent Thrasher a “council inquiry” asking the police chief if the agency has a de-escalation policy, whether recruits are trained on de-escalation procedures, how long are they trained, and if the policy — if one exists — is given to recruits.
At the City Council’s work session Tuesday, Wolfe praised Thrasher’s responses, and said the City Council should address chokeholds, knee holds and shooting at moving vehicles.
“...The use of chokeholds and knee holds, I’m willing to listen to more on that,” Wolfe said Tuesday. “But I think it’s something as a policy that we don’t like and we don’t agree with.”
“And I would also agree and say that we should discuss the policy of being able to shoot at moving vehicles — I don’t think we should (shoot at moving vehicles,)” she said. “And this is something I think we should discuss as a council, as a policy issue.”
While he explained to Wolfe in his response that all three procedures are used only in “deadly force situations,” Thrasher also said, “SVPD believes banning this technique in situations when officers face potential death or serious physical injury places them in undue risk.”
Thrasher also said the choke and knee hold are known as the carotid control technique.
“In law enforcement, the technique used to subdue a suspect that is commonly referred to as a “neck restraint or chokehold” is technically called the Carotid Control Technique,” Thrasher said in his response. “Applied properly, this technique does not ‘choke’ the suspect, but limits blood flow to and from the head rendering the subject unconscious.”
“Unfortunately, the situations where this technique is typically used are high-stress, dynamic situations and the technique can be applied improperly causing choking of the suspect. As a result, SVPD banned the use of this technique in the late 1980s except in situations when officers are faced with deadly force situations. This means it can only be used to save their or someone else’s life.”
The chief told the Herald/Review on Thursday that the last time Sierra Vista officers had to use the carotid control technique was more than 24 years ago.
Wolfe said it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are — law enforcement’s use of chokeholds, knee holds and shooting at moving cars should stop.
“If they haven’t used a choke hold in 24 years, then why have it at all? “ Wolfe said in an interview with the herald/Review on Thursday.
Wolfe also said that shooting at moving cars creates too much room for error because other people could be hurt.
But like the carotid control technique, an officer would only shoot at a moving car if the suspect is using the vehicle as a weapon to run down an officer or others, Thrasher said.
“In such a case, the shots shall be directed at the perpetrator(s) and not at the structure of the vehicle itself,” Thrasher said in his response.
Mayor Rick Mueller said the City Council will hold a work session with Thrasher and other police department heads so that the issues brought up by Wolfe can be discussed.