SF police defend use of chokehold on man during Giants game

If you attended the Giants’ home opener Tuesday, you may have witnessed an unpleasant scene: a police officer on his knees holding a man in what appeared to be a chokehold as passers-by milled about. Nearby, another officer stood and watched.

If you didn’t see the incident, which ended when the handcuffed man got up and was led away, you can watch the video online. According to police, the hold on the suspect, who was detained for rowdy and disruptive behavior and then ejected from the ballpark but not arrested, is allowed.

“An officer can use reasonable force necessary to make an arrest,” said Officer Albie Esparza. “As you can see in the video, the suspect complied after the officer positioned himself to control the suspect and they walked away.”

The Police Department’s manual states that “choking by means of pressure on the subject’s trachea is a prohibited practice,” but “rendering a subject unconscious by applying pressure to the carotid artery is permissible only when lesser types of restraint would be ineffective.”

A “carotid restraint” is described as an “effective means of subduing a violent subject.”

While this assessment is mirrored in the second edition of Vincent and Dominick DiMaio’s “Forensic Pathology,” the book points out that “[i]n theory, the carotid sleeper hold will cause rapid unconsciousness without injury to the individual. Unfortunately, in violently struggling individuals, a carotid sleeper hold can easily and unintentionally be converted into a chokehold as the individual twists and turns to break the hold.”

Esparza said that while it appears the officer used such a hold, he was only positioning himself to do so but never executed it. If the officer had carried it out, the subject would have become unconscious within seconds. Instagram

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