9 Investigates

1 local law enforcement agency trains deputies to use ‘vascular neck restraints’

ORLANDO, Fla. — The vast majority of the major law enforcement agencies in Central Florida do not train officers to use neck restraints of any kind. And certainly not a knee to the neck like what was used on George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Some agencies told 9 investigates’ reporter Daralene Jones that an officer might be forced to use restraint in a life or death situation, but as far as training an officer to use a neck restraint, she only found that happening at the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

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The department has a two-page policy outlining the use of what’s called a vascular neck restraint.

Deputies have the option to use it to gain control of a suspect.

According to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office policy deputies who wish to be authorized to use of the vascular neck restraint have to go through the agency approved VNR training -- a four-hour basic course -- conducted in accordance with guidelines established by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But the agency’s comprehensive policy regarding its use is more detailed. The Career Development Unit provides the training during new hire orientation training and existing deputies can go through the training during any given year.

The VNR method was adopted into the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office policy in 2013 and revised in 2018, but it’s not clear what has changed since the revision was put in place.

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The sheriff was clear that the policy put in place in 2013 does not allow what’s seen here leading up to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week and has since sparked protests across Central Florida.

“You’ve got them from behind with your arm around their neck. Again, its temporary restraint to gain compliance and control. And once the compliance and control is gained, its immediate de-escalation. It’s not ongoing holding and holding,” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said.

When she asked why deputies can use this type of force, the sheriff said, “What we look at is the best way to protect our citizens, protect our law enforcement officers.”

9 Investigates surveyed other large law enforcement agencies in Central Florida and reviewed their use of force policies.

The Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Osceola and Lake County sheriff’s offices and the Kissimmee and Orlando police departments do not allow the risky and potentially deadly restraint method.

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“We stay away from those areas of the body,” Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O’Dell said.

In Volusia County, its defined for deputies, and they are also warned it is considered lethal force.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood paid a consultant $90,000 to review the departments policies and procedures when he was elected, and one of the policies they advised the agency to eliminate was related to the use of neck restraints.

“Neck holds and training for neck hold restraint were all taken out of our policy,” Chitwood said.

Based on recommendations from the consultant, the department implemented a revised set of use of force guidelines that took effect in September 2019.

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But like some other agencies, the sheriff said it’s not to say a neck restraint might not ever happen in a case of life or death.

“So, in other words, unless there’s a struggle for a gun, the officers felt their lives were in danger,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said.

The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’s policy includes a list of comprehensive actions that must happen in the event a deputy utilizes a neck restraint.

According to its policy the vascular neck restraint may be used when active resistance or higher resistance levels are encountered.

The justifications are the same officer/subject factors that exist in any other force decision. Also, the level of VNR application and or compression must be consistent with the level of resistance given by the subject and deescalated as appropriate upon achievement of compliance.

And after it’s used, the department requires the suspect to be secured with restraint devices as soon as practicable, whether rendered unconscious or not.

Unconscious subjects will be revived utilizing the palm reviving technique, as demonstrated during training.

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Unconscious subjects should regain consciousness within 20 seconds of administering the palm reviving technique.

If an unconscious subject does not regain consciousness within 30 seconds, on-scene deputies will immediately summon emergency medical services and implement resuscitation efforts.

All subjects who have been rendered unconscious by the VNR will be transported to a hospital and examined by medical personnel prior to transport to the jail.

The policy goes on to state that a suspect who has been subjected to the VNR, but not rendered unconscious will be evaluated by Brevard County Fire Rescue prior to transport to the jail. And as soon as practical, a supervisor will be notified of the VNR application.

Plus, deputies will maintain a two-hour direct observation period of any subject to whom the VNR has been applied.

A few police agencies in South Florida that allow that vascular neck restraint tactic like Brevard County have suspended using it while the policy is reviewed because of the incident in Minneapolis.

Ivey said he has no plans for that.

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