Of Chokeholds and Neck Restraints
Sunday, June 18 marks five weeks since the death of Tashii Farmer, also known as Tashii Brown, in police custody near the Venetian Hotel and Casino. In the time between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day much has happened.
This past week, formal charges of involuntary manslaughter and oppression under color of office were filed against Metro Officer Kenneth Lopera. The charges say Brown (Farmer) died after being placed in a chokehold.
Prior to the charges being leveled, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called on Metro police to stop using neck restraints as a tool to control subjects. “If it’s not used in the exact way that they’re trained…then you end up with an option of killing somebody,” ACLU Executive Director Tod Story told The Now Report.
But in a May 17 news conference, also before charges were filed, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the technique Lopera claims to have used on Farmer was a “rear naked choke”.
“I want to re-iterate that the rear naked choke is not a technique taught by or approved by the LVMPD,” McMahill said. The technique taught by Metro is called the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint, or LVNR.
“This technique does not restrict air supply to the subject and is applied to the sides of the neck, not the windpipe, to restrict blood flow,” said McMahill.
But doesn’t a rear naked choke also restrict blood flow by compressing arteries in the neck? The Now Report put that question to the National Law Enforcement Training Center, sole source provider of trademarked LVNR system.
“You are correct in the fact that the rear naked choke has an option for airway and blood, depending on its application,” said Michael J. Huth of the NLETC in an email. “It is similar to the LVNR in the sense of the anatomical location of the neck that is being affected. It differs greatly on the amount of control and safety for the suspect.”
Huth says among the safety features of the LVNR is that it has three different levels of use depending upon the subject’s resistance, and the technique provides an encirclement of the neck that protects the subject’s windpipe with the officer’s elbow position.
So why would an officer use a rear naked choke if they were trained in the LVNR? Could outside marital arts training be a factor? Definitive answers may emerge only during a trial.
Undersheriff McMahill said the Metro investigation into Farmer’s death will consider the issue of whether Metro should continue using a neck restraint. But he also noted that the LVNR was employed by Metro officers more than fifty times last year without an incident like the Farmer case.
“I have a very difficult time trying to remove an opportunity to have a de-escalation tool so that officers don’t revert to deadly force,” McMahill said.