The move comes more than a year after protests broke out in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor being killed by cops.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of police brutality and race-motivated violence that some readers may find distressing
The U.S. Department of Justice has banned chokeholds and “no-knock” entries throughout the department. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the change was implemented to hold federal law enforcement officers accountable. “Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement. The Attorney General said unannounced raids and “carotid restraints” haven't been done away with all together but added federal law enforcement officers will have to get explicit authorization from higher authorities to carry them out. “The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability,” read the statement, reported The Independent.
The deaths of George Floyd, who was killed by a chokehold, and Breonna Taylor, who was killed during a 'no-knock' raid, sparked a rallying cry for change. Both procedures have come under scrutiny over the years but it was the protests that followed their deaths that proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Chokeholds are used to restrict blood flow to the brain and were heavily criticized after a Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes causing his death.
“As members of federal law enforcement, we have a shared obligation to lead by example in a way that engenders the trust and confidence of the communities we serve,” said Deputy Attorney General Monaco. “It is essential that law enforcement across the Department of Justice adhere to a single set of standards when it comes to ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ entries. This new policy does just that and limits the circumstances in which these techniques can be used.”
The Department of Justice said federal agents will be required to “knock and announce” their identity, authority, and purpose before conducting a raid. The DOJ did provide an exemption in cases where federal agents had legitimate reasons to believe announcing their intention to enter would create a situation leading to imminent violence. The new policy limits the conditions under which no-knock raids are acceptable will be limited to instances where physical safety is at stake, of the officers or the people inside the building.
The DOJ said there could be instances where a no-knock raid needs to be carried out for reasons other than anticipation of violence and in those situations, they are required to get approval from higher authorities. “If an exception is sought when there is no imminent threat of physical safety, the agent must first get approval from the head of the law enforcement component and the U.S. Attorney or relevant Assistant Attorney General before seeking judicial authorization for a ‘no knock’ warrant,” read the statement.
Police fired 32 shots into Breonna Taylor's home during an announced raid as part of a narcotics investigation, with 6 bullets hitting her, reported Courier-Journal. A lawsuit filed by her family claimed that th cops refused her first-aid and that she was alive for five minutes before passing away. "Breonna, who was unarmed in her hallway, was struck by several rounds of gunfire. She was not killed immediately. Rather, she lived for another five to six minutes before ultimately succumbing to her injuries on the floor of her home," said the lawsuit.