This statement may be met with a lot of push back, but I’ll say it anyway; Neck restraints are by far the safest, quickest, most effective way for police officers to end an encounter with a combative suspect, and every agency should be training them. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s explore why...
Neck Restraints vs. "Chokeholds"
It’s important to understand what a neck restraint is and why it’s different from a choke. A vascular neck restraint technique applies pressure to the sides of a subject’s neck on the carotid arteries. This pressure limits blood flow to the brain, which causes the subject to temporarily lose consciousness - long enough to get them in handcuffs. It does not, in any way, prevent the person from breathing. A choke, on the other hand, uses pressure on the front of the neck, around the trachea, and does prohibit a person’s ability to breathe. This is a very, very important distinction, yet the media and politicians will only refer to it as a choke. Sort of like how they refer to magazines as “clips.” Ignorance is not always bliss, and unfortunately it influences administrative decision making on whether or not to train their officers in the use of a technique that would actually end up saving them from excessive force lawsuits and bad publicity. It's ironic, don’t you think? (Shout out to my 90’s crush Alanis Morissette).
Semantics are important. One thing that Jiu Jitsu doesn’t do a good job of is distinguishing a neck restraint vs. a choke. When you hear the term, “rear naked choke,” for example, what you’re hearing is choke, but what’s actually happening is a carotid restraint.
The Two Most Common Arguments Against Training Neck Restraints and Why They’re Not Valid
Argument #1 - They’re Too Dangerous
Many police agencies are afraid of teaching neck restraints because they hear about someone who died as a result of a police “chokehold,” or saw a video on CNN, and instantly write them off as being “too dangerous,” due to the potential of someone being injured or killed. It’s an understandable concern, but also hypocritical. This is considering almost every agency in the U.S. trains in the use of Taser, which according to an article published by Rueters, have been involved in at least 1,081 deaths since they hit the market in the early 2000’s. We’re also still totally OK with cops hitting people with metal baseball bats (sorry, expandable batons). In fact, many states still mandate baton training for officers!
I’m not saying Tasers and Batons have no use. However, we’ve seen training video after training video where these tools are used multiple times with no effect. With each failed attempt, the use of force by officers becomes escalated due to the fact that they don’t know what else to do in order to control the person. This is especially true in situations when we’re dealing with people high on PCP or other substances who can’t feel pain.
I say we stop relying on electricity and blunt force and start focusing on physiology. On average, neck restraints take around 7-10 seconds for the subject to go unconscious, and they come back to reality about 30 seconds later. It’s science.
Additionally, as a Jiu Jitsu brown belt, combative tactics instructor and police officer who has used neck restraints on multiple occasions to successfully end fights without incident, I can say with certainty that they are the best tool a cop can carry with them. I’ve also been voluntarily rendered unconscious more than once from the use of a neck restraint and lived to tell you about it through this blog post.
Argument #2 - They look bad
I actually think they’re pretty boring to watch. You be the judge...what would look worse as a World Star video:
These videos also raise the question of not only what looks better, but what is more effective? I’ve had a 100 percent success rate with neck restraints, as have many other cops I’ve talked to about this topic. The same can’t be said for our other tools, especially de-EsCalAtioN TecHniQUes.
In my opinion, the rewards of neck restraints far outweigh any of the limited risks. These include:
- Ability to control a bigger, stronger suspect who's actively resisting.
- Great for smaller officers, especially females.
- Ability to control a resisting suspect without the need for strikes or kicks.
- Looks good on camera.
- Provides the perfect option when fighting in close quarters.
- Can also be used as a dominant control position to give the suspect an opportunity to comply.
Another huge benefit of neck restraints is that they can be set up from many different positions. For instance, there are rear neck restraints, front restraints, side restraints, collar restraints (using the suspect's clothing) and even ways to use your legs to establish the position - commonly known in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a "triangle." This variety and adaptability is different from most police "techniques," in that you don't have to wait for the suspect to be in the perfect position to actually use it. There are probably a hundred different ways to set up and finish a neck restraint. Here are just a few examples:
Head and Arm Triangle (video calls it a "choke," but again, Jiu Jitsu practitioners aren't cops and don't care about semantics)
Cross Collar Restraint from a Knee-on-Belly Position (Known as a baseball bat)
Here are some real-world examples. Watch and decide if there would have been a quicker way to end the fight by using a Taser, baton, strikes, kicks or your favorite de-escalation strategy...
Trained citizen ends fight on the bus:
Cops use rear neck restraint from grounded position to subdue man with a gun. He goes unconscious around the 2:40 mark:
Drunk guy attacks a Jiu Jitsu black belt. Whoops. Good guy uses rear neck restraint position to keep the guy controlled until the cops show up.
Neck restraints are the solution to most excessive force lawsuits and the bad PR that comes along with them. It’s time the policing industry makes them mandatory and starts training for real.
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Disclaimer: Jiu Jitsu Five-O is not associated with any law enforcement agency. All opinions expressed through the Jiu Jitsu Five-O blog, web site and social media channels are our own.