The use of the chokehold by police has gotten increased attention after a case in which a man died in New York, but local police said it should never be used here.
“It’s prohibited in this agency,” said Sgt. Charles Mitchell of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
He said officers have a variety of options, including Tasers and pepper spray, and do not need to resort to the often dangerous practice.
“It is very dangerous,” Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said of the chokehold.
He said officers have several hand-to-hand options, but the chokehold is not one of them.
Officers are taught to use pressure points or hard hand techniques such as bar hammerlocks that involve manipulating the arm or wrist to gain control of the suspect.
“If they have to go hand-to-hand … they’re advised to create distance (from the suspect),” Mitchell said.
Hand-to-hand combat by officers has generally dropped since the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office began using Tasers in 2012.
So far this year, the sheriff’s office has reported going hand-to-hand 205 times, compared to the 257 times deputies have pulled a Taser from their belts.
During the same period in 2011 - before Tasers were used by the department - officers went hand-to-hand 333 times.
Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Calvin Chew said the threat of the Taser is often enough to make a suspect compliant. To verify the effectiveness of the threat, the department tracks every time the weapon is pulled.
“It’s good because it allows our officers to not have to go hand-to-hand,” Chew said.
Eliminating some of that use of force also cuts down on officer injuries and workers’ compensation claims.