Jeff Humphrey

Police Change Knee on Neck Policy

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 at 3:46 p.m.

Investigators believe George Floyd was killed because a police officer improperly used a type of prone cuffing involving a knee to the neck.

Now, Spokane police are working to make sure what happened in Minneapolis, does not happen here.

“You guys saw the training bulletin released last week. In our department, effective immediately, the application of the knee or shin on the neck is considered an exceptional technique,” Sgt. Jake Jensen recently told a class of Spokane police officers.

As part of new training given to officers starting June 10th, exceptional technique means: The arrest tactic can only be used when there are no other reasonable alternatives to take someone into custody and, when there’s an immediate danger presented to officers and others and, only as a temporary restraint applied as a continuum of force.

Prone cuffing is often necessary when a person is suspected of a violent crime or is resisting arrest.

“Pulling their arm away, maybe swinging at the officer, becoming assaultive.  At that point, the officer has to transition into what we call a take down. They know various takedowns. And from that takedown, they can put that person in the prone position and then apply the knee to the back appropriately, and apply the handcuffs,” Jensen said while explaining the new policy.

Spokane police recently released video of an officer using his knee to restrain a man while the suspect is getting handcuffed. The body-cam footage was recorded two months before Floyd’s death.

At the time, the knee on the neck was an accepted technique taught at police academies across the country.

Now, Spokane’s department is enforcing new knee on the neck restrictions.

“The vast majority of prone cuffings we are going to be placing the knee across the shoulder blade, staying off the neck. There are rare, rare circumstance where that exceptional technique could be used, to help save that officer if there’s a heightened danger, but more or less, we’re just reinforcing the proper application with applying over the shoulder,” Jensen emphasized.

The majority of arrests here in Spokane do not even require the use of prone cuffing, but because the tactic involves potentially harmful force, new rules have been put in place.

Now, if an officer uses the knee to the neck technique, they have to report the incident and justify the maneuver.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is also advising its deputies the knee to the neck technique should only be used under exceptional circumstances.

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