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Police Organizations Playing Politics
The Results Impact Every Cop
In the months that followed the death of George Floyd, I saw many law enforcement leaders announcing that they had either moved the Vascular Neck Restraint (VNR) to deadly force or banned it all together. To say this was about as cowardly as a leader could act was an understatement.
It simply could not be explained.
George Floyd didn’t die from a vascular neck restraint, and he didn’t die from a chokehold. While activists, politicians and the media collectively blamed his death on this, the autopsy was clear that not only was there no damage to Floyd’s neck, but he had no trauma on his body.
The autopsy and the statements from the medical examiner did very little to silence the lies but I’ve come to expect that.
What I didn’t expect was for those that should be holding truth to a high standard to run as fast as they could to remove vascular neck restraints from their policy manuals.
This was both dangerous and weak on numerous fronts. VNR has been a proven low force option for over 50 years. It was developed in the 1970’s in Kansas City and until May 2020, anyone with a brain knew that it was one of the most effective and safe methods that law enforcement had to overcome resistance.
While common sense would tell just about anyone that a technique used daily in every jiu jitsu gym in America is clearly not dangerous, none of that seemed to matter.
Politics Over Tactics
So why would so many law enforcement leaders abandon a proven tool for law enforcement, while at the same time knowing that any alternative force had a much higher likelihood for injuries to both suspects and officers?
The easy answer would be politics in the aftermath of Floyd but something much more sinister happened.
In reviewing the consent decree against the Louisville Police Department, the Department of Justice discussed the unjustified use of neck restraints:
LMPD officers use neck restraints in circumstances where they are not justified. Neck restraints—applying pressure to the neck or throat in a way that inhibits air or blood flow—are “inherently dangerous” and have the potential to cause “serious bodily injury or death.”
While the media and activists are not held to a standard of truth, how could the DOJ publish a complete lie?
Then I found it.
The Department of Justice cited the National Consensus Use Of Force Policy published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and supported by ten other police organizations including the FOP, CALEA and the NTOA.
The placing of VNR into a deadly force category by these professional law enforcement organizations (that supposedly have your back) was added in July 2020.
Do you see what is happening?
A law enforcement technique, used safely for 50 years, was suddenly called “deadly force” just a few months after George Floyd did not die from a neck restraint, by the very organizations that exist to support law enforcement.
The Department of Justice, which uses consent decrees to destroy agencies and the communities they serve, then uses this as the reason to attack agencies for using this effective technique.
After discovering this strange relationship, I almost feel bad for calling the leaders that jumped on the activist bandwagon a bunch of cowards.
Here is why.
If you are a courageous leader and you rightfully have implemented VNR to give your personnel a proven technique to mitigate officer and suspect injury during a use of force incident and that technique is attacked by insane people, you should implement two important Courageous Police Leadership Principles:
“Never Let Feelings Redefine Facts” and “Communicate To Eliminate Misunderstanding”
But how can that be done effectively if the very organizations that are responsible for encouraging and supporting best practices in law enforcement have sided with crazy people?
In fact, it’s a pretty sound argument to eliminate VNR.
Not only did the International Association of Chiefs of Police get behind this lie, but the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Tactical Officers Association did the same?
It’s alarming and quite frankly cannot be tolerated. Law enforcement has enough enemies using lies and misinformation to derail the profession, the last thing we need is our own professional organizations doing the same.
To be clear, these organizations do not speak for the members as a whole. In fact, I’m a member of the IACP and FOP and had no clue this was done.
Now that I know, these organizations need to do what is right and immediately back away from this template policy.
As it stands now, CALEA agencies are pretty much forced to move VNR to deadly force and any activist pointing out that the IACP has done it will force any chief that likes being employed to do the same.
Then you have the National Tactical Officers Association which should disgust anyone in the tactical world that prides themselves on providing the best possible solutions to law enforcement professionals.
I wouldn’t expect every organization to back away, but many should.
By not doing so, they reveal themselves as not a fact based, best practices organization, but one that can be easily swayed by politics and opinion.
And if you haven’t been paying attention, that will not bode well for the profession.
Dr. Travis Yates is a commander with a large municipal police department and author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.