Police chiefs call for change against chokeholds
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Kobee Vance, MPB News

Law enforcement organizations in Mississippi are considering changing their policies on restraining civilians. This comes as an executive order from the President encouraging police departments to adopt better policies on force and de-escalation.

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The Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission establishes standards for participating police departments across the state. One of those standards involves chokeholds and neck restraints.

Luke Thompson is the Byram Police Chief and President of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police. He says he is suggesting changes around how officers restrain civilians. Thompson says “Currently the accreditation standards simply say that if you allow chokeholds and neck restraints that you have to have policy on it, you have to train on it, and then of course you have to review it. I’ve been in contact with our commission this morning regarding that suggesting that they review that for a potential change.”

Thompson says the policy at the Byram Police Department does not allow for these restraints unless it is a deadly force situation. “If someone is trying to hurt a police officer, or trying kill a police officer, then that police officer can take any available means at hand to protect themselves and protect the lives of other people," says Thompson. "And that would be the only time that such a move would be allowed under our policy.”

Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong serves as one of the state’s law enforcement accreditation commissioners. He says even a small amount of pressure around the neck could be enough to kill someone. Armstrong said “Most people in a stressful situation probably will inadvertently apply more pressure than they think that they are applying. So it’s a very delicate situation, and that is one of the reasons that we never have allowed it.”

The President’s executive order also encourages precincts to hire social workers as co-responders and to create a database to track officers with excessive use-of-force complaints in their records.