The Justice Department on Tuesday announced sweeping restrictions on when federal law enforcement agents can use chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants.
The new policy prohibits federal agents from using chokeholds unless the use of deadly force is necessary, which is when an agent believes the “subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”
It also applies to “carotid” restraint holds, which is a technique where an agent restricts blood flow to a person’s brain by pressing on the sides of their neck where carotid arteries are.
The policy change also generally limits the use of no-knock warrants to instances where a federal agent believes that knocking and announcing their presence would cause an imminent threat of physical violence to themself or someone else. Such warrants must be approved by both a federal prosecutor and the agent’s supervisor.
Exceptions to the rule must first be approved by the head of the agent’s department and the U.S. attorney or a “relevant” assistant attorney general, then the agent must seek judicial approval.
“In setting the policy this way, the department is limiting the use of higher-risk ‘no knock’ entries to only those instances where physical safety is at stake,” the department said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new rules are “important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.”
Tuesday’s announcement stems from a review of the department’s agencies and how they “engage” with those who come in contact with the criminal justice system.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco led the review and says it is “essential” that federal agents adhere to a single set of standards when it comes to the two restraint techniques and no-knock warrant.
“As members of federal law enforcement, we have a shared obligation to lead by example in a way that engenders the trust and confidence of the communities we serve,” Ms. Monaco said.