“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
It is all the rage to say we should defund the police which, some say, doesn't actually mean defund the police, but reform how policing is done. I could potentially be in favor of reforming some aspects of policing, but frankly, if you think it is a good idea to teach police to shoot people in the leg instead of center mass, you are disqualified from having an informed opinion. If you want to know why, let me take you shooting sometime and I'll show you. But, this isn't about shooting people in the leg, it's about choke holds being banned. The reason I am qualified, in part, to comment on choke holds is because I practice Jiu Jitsu. I am a purple belt and an instructor. I have competed at a high level (for old guys) and have been choked out a handful of times in training myself. I have also choked others out. By that I mean the person being choked took a short nap (it literally feels like a nap). I continue to practice and teach Jiu Jitsu 5-6 days a week. Jiu Jitsu practitioners use submission holds including choke holds to either make their opponent submit or go unconscious.
There are different kinds of chokes, there are air chokes and blood chokes. Air chokes are used, but blood chokes are more common. Blood chokes block the flow of blood to the brain by pinching the carotid artery on each side of the neck. Within seconds (if applied correctly) a person will literally fall asleep or loose consciousness. Once the choke is released a person will regain consciousness in a matter of seconds with ZERO negative side effects if the person is remotely healthy.
Now to the matter at hand. I watched the incident where two officers struggled with Rayshard Brooks before he took a stun gun, fled, fired the stun gun at one of the police officers, and ended up getting shot by one of the police officers. What I saw was multiple opportunities (at least two) for one of the police officers to apply a choke hold during the struggle prior to Mr. Brooks fleeing with the taser and getting shot. I have no idea what the rules of engagement are for police officers in Atlanta, so this not a critique on those officers. I don't know whether choke holds were allowed or taught as part of their training. What I do know, is that if they were allowed and if the officers had been appropriately trained, they might have been able to save that man's life using a choke hold. It is worth mentioning that the knee on the back of the neck of George Floyd was not really a choke hold and that is not the kind of thing I am addressing here. Yes, I am aware that it led to his death and the tactic was used in a horrible way, but it wasn't really a choke hold. A choke hold (properly applied) doesn't take almost 9 minutes to be effective. The best example and most likely to be useful for law enforcement is what is commonly called the "rear naked choke" (seen above). This choke can be applied standing as well as on the ground.
If we take away these kinds of holds as a tool from law enforcement officers, what options are they left with once an encounter turns violent? They can beat a person into submission (that sounds horrible), they can tase people (they might still need to resort to other forms of violence and tasers aren't always a good option), they might be able to use pepper spray (that might end up harming them as much as the people they are arresting), or they could shoot them. Am I missing another option? I think those are the main ones. Frankly, choke holds are a lot less violent than many of the other options. I recognize that there have been a few (very few) times that these choke holds have led to death, but we ought to also ask how many times a choke hold has saved or could have saved someone's life if it was used properly.
The answer isn't to defund the police or take away the tools they have. The answer is two-fold. First, understand that regardless of how well trained they are there will be times where violence is required, authority is abused, and the outcome is tragic. However, this seems to be uncommon (contrary to popular belief). Second, make sure that law enforcement is trained really well to use the tools they have to save lives rather than take away tools and limit their options costing more lives and damage. There are other things that can be discussed regarding reform, but taking away choke holds is a feel good move that will result in making policing more dangerous for the police and the community!
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.