In Kansas City, many police officers don’t use the word “choke hold.”
Instead, they’re trained in a technique that uses pressure on the sides of the neck to restrain a noncompliant suspect.
Officers from across the country have come to Kansas City to be trained in proper use of the technique, known as “lateral vascular neck restraint,” or LVNR. The maneuver, its adherents say, is separate from the kind of restraint seen on video involving Eric Garner of Staten Island.
Reaction to the lack of a grand jury indictment in Garner’s death has prompted nationwide dialogue and protests regarding the use of “choke holds.”
Police union officials in New York have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a banned maneuver such as a choke hold, because Garner was resisting arrest.
The LVNR technique, trainers said, is not a choke hold but a specific maneuver that restricts blood to and from the brain, making it more difficult for suspects to resist arrest.
When applied properly, the technique does not block a suspect’s airway, said Officer Michael Huth, a defensive tactics and physical training instructor for the Kansas City police, as well as training director for the National Law Enforcement Training Center. The nonprofit center, housed at the Regional Police Academy in Kansas City, North, has trained hundreds of officers in the restraint’s use, he said.
LVNR, when properly used, is safe and effective, Huth said.
“The idea has never been to render somebody unconscious,” he said. “We have had many uses of the LVNR in Kansas City and we have never had a serious injury to an officer or suspect when this is properly applied.”
In contrast, impeding the flow of air will make it more difficult for a suspect to breathe and may actually prompt the suspect to struggle more.
Every Kansas City police officer is trained in the LVNR technique and receives an annual update, said Sgt. Kari Thompson of the Kansas City police. Many officers across the metro area, meanwhile, also receive the training.
For Olathe police officers, LVNR is included in the department’s “use of force” policy, said Sgt. Brad Caldwell.
For officers in Independence, instruction in LVNR is part of the 48 hours of additional training that every officer must have every three years, said Officer Tom Gentry, department spokesman.
Instructors are certified and the training is taken seriously, Gentry said.
This summer the King County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state resumed training in the LVNR after not using it for 10 years. A former sheriff said it was difficult to guarantee the maneuver would be executed properly, according to news reports.
Last year a Spokane, Wash., man died after a confrontation with Spokane County sheriff’s deputies who used both a Taser and LVNR in subduing a suspect. After the suspect’s death, a medical examiner said he had died of oxygen deprivation, but that he also had suffered from heart issues.
The Overland Park police force, meanwhile, does not currently train its officers in the use of LVNR, said Gary Mason, department spokesman. The department’s policy was re-evaluated several years ago.
“We teach a variety of other methods in order to gain compliance or control of the subject,” he said.
The term “LVNR” is trademarked to differentiate it from other methods of restraint.
Officers from about 500 public safety agencies have been trained at the national center, Huth said, and the technique currently is being used by officers for more than 400 police departments.
Some departments, he added, are reluctant to train officers in a technique that involves circling a suspect’s neck.
Such reluctance, he added, is understandable “if you don’t hold your people to a very high standard.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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