A person who is already restrained or handcuffed should not be subjected to a chokehold, the Rochester Police Policy Oversight Commission recommended on Tuesday.
The recommendation is a result of the charge Mayor Kim Norton presented to the commission four weeks ago: to revise three of the police department’s policies — standards of conduct, handcuffs and restraints, and use of force — within 30 days. A listening session was held on July 1 to hear recommendations from the public.
Commissioner W.C. Jordan made the motion to revise the department's neck restraint policy.
"I feel like there is no way we can move forward with a chokehold where we are going to allow police officers to choke somebody who is already handcuffed," he said.
The sole dissenting vote came from commissioner Lawrence Collins, in part because Police Chief Jim Franklin had already reclassified the carotid hold as "deadly force" at the commission's last meeting.
“It has been removed from the control provision, and because I think it is redundant under provision of deadly force, I vote 'no,' ” Collins said. “I leave it really to the judgment of the department.”
Commissioner David Kreps said he favored eliminating the use of the neck restraint altogether, but called the recommendation to restrict its use to those who are not already handcuffed or restrained “a step in the right direction.”
Franklin told the commissioners that the reason the department kept the neck-restraint technique in the policy was so that they could train on it. The last thing he wants, he said, is for someone to attempt a move or a tactic without training.
Two community members spoke out against chokeholds.
“Our nation, and many people within our nation, are going toward eliminating this hold. I am extremely perplexed as to why we feel as though we absolutely need this when we have other options,” Deborah Delgado said. She noted that Rochester police report they have not used the hold in recent years.
“Although I appreciate the caveat that this cannot be used if a person is restrained, I think we should still consider the very viable option that this is eliminated altogether and we look at other means by which to control a person,” she said.
Delgado and Jackie Trotter told the commission they were part of a group of African-American women who are vehemently opposed to the hold.
“We spoke with Chief Franklin and have had very useful sessions with him and respect him and are happy that he is the chief in Rochester, but we adamantly disagree with the use of the carotid-control hold,” Trotter said.
As a taxpayer, Trotter said, she would not like to enable someone to use a hold that can be misused, and, given the country’s history, seems likely to be misused.
Franklin said the department would never use the chokehold on a restrained subject who is compliant, "flopping around" or actively resisting, but said he could envision a situation where it might be needed. That situation, Franklin described, could be someone who is handcuffed in the front and is able to access a weapon in their waistband and begin firing on officers. In that case, deadly force such as a chokehold could be warranted, he said.
The commission is an advisory board that does not have power to enforce policies or its recommendations.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commission welcomed a new member, Joe Phillips, owner of Jersey Jo’s Philly Cheesesteaks and More. There is still one vacancy on the commission — the seat of a representative of the Human Rights Commission. The commission also elected its leadership. Terre McJoynt was voted chairwoman and Phillips was voted vice chairman.