I-Team: Metro allows neck restraint, but should it be banned?

I-Team

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and nationwide protests have spurred calls for police reform. Here in Southern Nevada, the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR) is under scrutiny.

Two weeks before a series or BLM protests in Las Vegas, Metro updated its Use of Force Policy.

“It looks good on paper, but it’s not practical,” said Sherrie Royster, legal director for ACLU of Nevada.

Officers are allowed to use LVNR if a person’s actions are assaultive, meaning extremely aggressive or life threatening. Cities like Miami have banned it, something the ACLU of Nevada is also calling for.

“We would like to see that removed,” said Royster.

The National Law Enforcement Training Center demonstrated the move in a video aired in a 2014 CBS News Report, saying that it doesn’t block the airway.

“I know that officers across the country have said that it’s not chokehold. You know, there’s always questions because it looks exactly the same.”

Royster said it’s just too risky.

They shouldn’t even put theirselves in a position where they are possibly taking a life, because that’s what can happen,” she said.

In 2009, 29-year-old Dustin Boone died after he struggled with Metro Police and an officer applied an LVNR. While his death was ruled a homicide, and through the county’s investigatory process the death was considered excusable, Boone’s family was awarded a $1 million settlement.

The ACLU raised questions then.

“It should raise eyebrows,” said Allenn Lichtenstein. “It should raise questions. Is this the best possible way of handling these situations?”

In Fort Wayne, Indiana last year, LVNR was suspended after two officers were hospitalized after using the neck restraint during training.

According to Metro, the use of LVNR has decreased from 51 in 2016 to 21 in 2019. Its effectiveness has fluctuated as low as 55% in 2017 to 86% the next year.

“If you are close enough to someone who is a suspect to wrap your arms around your neck, then it seems like there are other mechanisms that you could use to detain them,” said Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones.

While the Clark County Commission has oversight of Metro, the legislature could make statewide changes.

Assemblyman Tom Roberts spent more than 24 years at Metro, retiring as an assistant sheriff.

“It just wasn’t a technique that I used, and it’s very seldomly used,” said Roberts.

He said taking away a method used by officers shouldn’t be taken lightly, but he is open to change.

“That is a technique that is used prior to deadly force,” explained Roberts. It’s really not considered deadly force if properly applied. If the public perception is what it is, it might be time to get rid of it.”

“I think ‘if applied correctly’ part is what makes it so important,” said Royster.

The I-Team checked with other departments to find out what their policy is for LVNR. The Nevada Highway Patrol, North Las Vegas Police and Henderson Police do not allow the use of it.

The I-Team reached out to HPD for a statement and they released this on 7/6:

“The Henderson Police Department’s policy is to prohibit the use of the carotid restraint as a personal control technique. The use of the carotid restraint can cause the unintentional death of a person on whom it is applied. This is an unacceptable risk, which shall not be taken lightly by employees of this Department. Employees not involved in deadly force situations will utilize the many other practical techniques provided through Department training, for controlling individuals who offer physical resistance.”

Henderson Police Department

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