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Salt Lake Bans Police Chokeholds & Tear Gas On Crowds

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Salt Lake City’s police department has made official changes to its policy manual banning chokeholds and the use of tear gas on crowds.

“I support and encourage the action the department took to draw a clear line on tear gas and chokeholds,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement to KSL. “This is the type of definition we need to see as we continue to reform our policy long term.”

The changes come amid nationwide calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

In announcing the updated policies Wednesday, the department said it’s putting into writing what was already standard operating procedure since officers are not trained to use chokeholds and tear gas is not available for officers to use as a means of crowd control.

“So we really didn’t have to switch gears,” said Detective Greg Wilking with the Salt Lake City Police Department. “It just is actually putting in the verbiage that it’s not in policy.”

The handbook for “Control Devices and Techniques” now includes a new section on carotid control holds.

“The use of carotid control holds, restraints, or techniques are not authorized, and officers shall not attempt to render an individual unconscious through the use of bi-lateral carotid artery restriction,” the handbook states.

“Officers are strictly prohibited from applying chokeholds or direct force to the mouth, neck, or throat that will intentionally compress the airway or restrict an individual’s ability to breathe unless the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death to the officer or other person(s),” reads the rest of the handbook section.

The department also updated the guidelines for the use of tear gas. The previous handbook said that tear gas may be used for crowd dispersal or against a barricaded person based on the circumstances.

“The use of tear gas on crowds is prohibited,” the new version states, while still allowing the use against a barricaded suspect.

“The problem with tear gas is you shoot it out there and it affects a mass of people,” Wilking said.

The updated policy manual was sent to the city council on Wednesday so that council members could review the changes and offer feedback.

“It shows that we are willing to work with the community, listen to the community and effect change,” Wilking said about handbook update.

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