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What is Proportional Force? Chokeholds and Neck Restraint in Chauvin Trial

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The phrase “proportional force” or “proportional use of force” has been mentioned several times during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who has been charged with the death of George Floyd.

So what is it exactly? Proportional force is the idea that the force that a police officer is supposed to use on a suspect, including the use of chokeholds or other neck restraints, should not be more intense than necessary.

The manual of the Minneapolis Police Department states that neck restraints and chokeholds are basically reserved for when an officer feels caught in a life-or-death situation.

When determining the level of force to use, officers should consider the severity of the crime, the mental condition of the person under arrest, whether the person is resisting or presents a threat to the officer, and other factors that may influence the situation.

The manual further explains that the conscious neck restraint may be used against a subject who is “actively resisting,” while rendering the person unconscious should be limited to someone who is aggressive or “for lifesaving purposes.”

Most police departments have based their policies on a Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor, which acknowledges that reasonableness depends on the situation, Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department and an expert on use of force, testified on the stand.

Whenever possible, officers should seek to de-escalate the situation, he said.

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