A sweeping police reform bill — now Colorado law — has spurred policy reviews in law enforcement agencies across the state. That includes the Castle Rock Police Department, which is aligning its use-of-force tactics with the new law and recently ended a years-long policy permitting chokeholds.
Senate Bill 20-217 was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on June 19. The law aims to heighten law enforcement accountability in the wake of nationwide protests decrying systemic racism and police brutality.
The law now bans law enforcement officers from using chokeholds, both respiratory and carotid.
Carotid holds entail applying pressure to the sides of a person’s neck in an effort to stop blood flowing to the brain. When using respiratory holds, an officer would apply pressure to a person’s neck, throat or windpipe to make breathing difficult or impossible.
Until June 8, the Castle Rock Police Department’s use-of-force policy permitted carotid holds, but only as a last means of restraining “a subject who demonstrates high levels of active aggression” and only when other forms of control were not feasible.
The policy banned respiratory holds except in situations where lethal force was justified.
Police Chief Jack Cauley said the department banned carotid holds on June 8 “due to the current events surrounding the perception of neck holds in general” and because the department’s officers rarely used chokeholds as it was.
Cauley said chokeholds were permissible under department policy throughout his tenure but he was not sure how long that policy was in place. The policy required officers to undergo annual training in order to use carotid or respiratory holds.
Cauley said the department is working with its legal adviser to review the new law and department policies “to ensure that we are in compliance with the state law.” He believed CRPD policy was largely in line with the bill already, he said.
“We regularly review our policies, however, we are certainly reviewing them now to ensure we’re in compliance with any aspects that are included in Senate Bill 217,” Cauley said.
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