Denver police ban chokeholds, adding to rule changes as second week of huge protests continues

The department announced the policy changes Sunday evening.

Denver Police officers in riot gear aim guns loaded with pepper balls toward protesters. May 29, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Police officers in riot gear aim guns loaded with pepper balls toward protesters. May 29, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

The Denver Police Department will ban all chokeholds, make SWAT team members wear body cameras and force officers to file a report any time they point a weapon at someone.

DPD announced the changes to its use-of-force policy Sunday evening after Colorado Politics broke the story hours earlier.

As of Sunday, DPD updated the language of its policy to remove exceptions for chokeholds and “carotid compression techniques” that can stop blood from flowing to the head or neck. Previously, officers could not use them “unless engaged in a lethal force encounter,” the policy states.

Effective Sunday, any officer who points a weapon at someone will have to tell their supervisor. In a statement, DPD said “a report will be created to improve data collection and evaluation of these incidents.”

DPD’s swat unit will now have to activate their body-worn cameras “when executing tactical operations,” a press release states.

The changes come after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis while in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. In Denver, police officers used tear gas and smoke bombs and shot pepper balls at people a countless number of times while responding to protesters, most of whom were advocating against police brutality.

As of June 2, the Office of the Independent Monitor, which watchdogs DPD, had received 150 complaints alleging police misconduct during the protests.

A week-and-a-half of protests did what a year-and-a-half of conversations between criminal justice advocates and the police department could not. Members of a use-of-force advisory board that helped the department revise its policies between 2017 and 2018 made these recommendations back then, according to an email from Chief Paul Pazen to government officials obtained by Denverite.

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