DOJ Policy Limits Chokeholds, No-Knock Entries for Federal Officers

In Summary

The Department of Justice announced a new policy on Tuesday prohibiting the use of chokeholds and no-knock entries for federal officers in most cases. 

The Department of Justice announced a new written policy on chokeholds and no-knock entries for federal officers on Tuesday.  

The policy prohibits the use of “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorized. Deadly force is defined as: “When the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the office or another person.”  

It also limits the circumstances in which law enforcement officials are allowed to use unannounced entries. According to the department, federal agents are generally required to “knock and announce” their identity, authority and purpose before entering to execute a search warrant, but there are instances where officers enter unannounced.  

RELATED: State Investigation Leads to Reform for the Bakersfield Police Department 

The new policy limits the use of the “no knock” entry in connection to a search warrant only to situations where the agent has “reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agent’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person.”  

“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.” 

This new policy comes after the high-profile and violent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, which sparked a new national cry for police reform.  

RELATED: Justice Department Launches Investigation Into Phoenix, City Police Department  

The family of Floyd sought legislative justice through the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which aims to address a range of policies and issues with policing practices. It would lower the criminal intent standard from willful to knowing or reckless to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution. It would also limit qualified immunity for officers and grand administrative subpoena power to the DOJ in pattern and practice investigations. The bill has passed in the House, but not the Senate.  

Since Garland took over as the U.S. Attorney General, he has launched several patterns and practice investigations into troubling police departments, including ones in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed and Louisville where an officer shot Breonna Taylor.  

RELATED: Justice Department Announces Investigation Into Louisville Police Department  

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.  

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