California

California ties hands of cops, passes law banning use of ‘face-down holds’ during arrests

California ties hands of cops, passes law banning use of
‘face-down holds’ during arrests 1

SACRAMENTO, CA- California—the land of fruits and nuts—continues to live up to its nickname, as a recently passed bill will significantly reduce the ability of officers to safely take people into custody and which will probably lead to more injuries of both suspects and law enforcement officers.

The bill, AB-490 was passed by the California assembly on a 50-15 vote and will go to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has never met a bill that restricts police officers that he didn’t like, meaning he’s likely to sign the bill.

Under the legislation, police in California will be prohibited from using face-down holds which proponents of the bill say has led to a number of accidental deaths related to positional asphyxia, East County Today reports.

The bill was authored by chairman of the Select Committee on Police Reform, Mike Gipson, who apparently is a former police officer.

“Last year, we witnessed the death of my API [Asian-Pacific Islander] Brother, Angelo Quinto, a Navy veteran, who was tragically killed by police when an officer knelt on his neck for nearly five minutes,” said Gipson.

“We need to make sure all methods of restraining someone do not turn unnecessarily deadly.”

Positional asphyxia is a phenomenon that occurs when a person who is being restrained, typically in a prone position, cannot get enough oxygen.

A similar technique whereby the knee is placed to the neck of a suspect is what was allegedly used by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of career criminal and drug addict George Floyd.

“My bill still allows officers to protect themselves in life-threatening situations, but it does not allow them to cut off anyone’s airway,” Gipson said.

“The circumstances of Angelo Quinto’s death are a stark parallel to George Floyd’s, which both exposed loopholes in use-of-force policies.”

AB-490 is an add-on to AB-1196 which was also authored by Gipson and signed by Newsom in 2020. That banned police officers from using the same type of hold allegedly used on Floyd. Under current law, police are prohibited from using any type of chokehold, including carotid restraints.

“AB-490 will create uniform statewide policy on restraints that cause positional asphyxia to make sure these restraints are no longer used,” Gipson said.

The bill stems from an incident that occurred last Dec. 23 in Antioch, California when police received a call from a woman who was screaming, whereby the phone suddenly disconnected.

 

A 911 operator was able to reestablish contact with the caller, who said her brother (Quinto) was physically restraining her mother. He also said he was under the influence of drugs and was armed with a hammer, East County Today said.

Officers arrived on scene and came upon Quinto being restrained by his mother on a bedroom floor of the house and requested she release him so police could detain him.

In a press conference, Antioch police chief Tammany Brooks said officers at no point did officers have a knee across Quinto’s neck.

“According to preliminary results of an investigation, at one point during the handcuff, an officer did briefly for a few seconds have a knee across a portion of his shoulder blade which is a common control technique taught in California POST,” Brooks said.

“At no point did any officer use a knee or any body part to gain leverage or apply pressure to Angelo’s head, neck, or throat which is outside of our policy and training.”  

Brooks said that officers attempted to get control of Quinto’s legs as they were “thrashing around.” After speaking to his mother, it was determined that he was suffering a mental health crisis whereupon an ambulance was called.

During that time, Quinto had become unresponsive and was identified as suffering a medical emergency. Handcuffs were removed and paramedics began rendering medical aid, Brooks said.

“As medics entered the room, officers recognized that Angelo had become unresponsive and potentially experiencing a medical emergency. Angelo was immediately unhandcuffed and medics began evaluating him and rendered medical aid,” the chief said.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Quinto was eventually admitted to the ICU and stayed there for three days before he passed away.

Brooks noted an autopsy showed Quinto had suffered no injuries relative to his struggle with either his mother or officers; there were no fractures of the skull, torso or extremities; an examination of his neck showed no evidence of either strangulation or a crushed airway.

 

Police leaders in the state have criticized the new bill as being redundant and vague (exactly the way legislators want them), noting police departments already have policies dictating how officers can safely detain a suspect without risking asphyxiation.

According to Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force consultant to police agencies agreed that police agencies already have policies in place advising on such holds.

“Every department has policies on this,” said Obayashi, who is also a deputy sheriff and legal adviser for the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.

“Every law enforcement agency trains their officers, advises them, cautions them on this very restraint issue—positional asphyxia.”

Meanwhile, the California State Sheriff’s Association also slammed the bill, claiming it will put officers in more dangerous circumstances and may result in officers having to escalate their use of force options and move to options like impact weapons or stun guns to subdue subjects.

“”[The bill] neglects situations in which a subject creates a threat of death or serious bodily injury to an officer or another person,” they said. 

They added that just like Obayashi noted, officers may have to move to more significant alternative such as batons and Tasers. The law of unintended consequences, coming soon to the loony bin known as California. 

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Back in January, Law Enforcement Today wrote about legislatures using knee-jerk responses to incidents as a means to tie the hands of police, this time in Illinois. For more on that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In the early morning hours under the cover of darkness, the Illinois Senate passed a controversial, quietly renamed police reform bill which one police chief says will lead to “mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois.”

At about 4:49 a.m. on Wednesday, the Senate passed the “criminal justice reform” House Bill 3653. The bill, proposed by the Legislative Black Caucus, would eliminate cash bail, remove qualified immunity for officers, and eliminate the felony murder charge among other changes.

The bill was originally H.B. 163 but was changed to H.B. 3653 after passage in the House when the Senate made amendments. The original H.B. 163 sponsor, State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), said Monday that she had no part in the changes to her bill, which was originally proposed as opioid legislation.

The bill was meant to be a prescription drug monitoring bill but was hijacked by a January 4, 600-page amendment added by legislators. Stuart withdrew her support, saying:

“I want to be very clear that the police reform language in Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 is not something I had any input on. My original bill was rewritten by the Senate sponsors without my consultation.

“My original version of House Bill 163 was about changes to Illinois’ prescription monitoring program. My bill simply required that controlled substance prescriptions be reported to an electronic database on the same day they are dispensed. The goal was to address the opioid crisis by helping catch people who doctor shop to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for opioids.”

 

The bill would also permit officers to be disciplined or terminated based on anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints from the public without a sworn affidavit and would require those complaints to be kept on the officer’s record indefinitely.

The bill has been attacked by Republicans and police officials across the state. Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana spoke at a press conference called by several local law enforcement and government leaders Tuesday.

Sheriff Caruana said of the legislation:

“This is not an attack on law enforcement. This is (an) attack on the community, on victims of crime, because what it does is prevent us from doing our jobs.”

The bill also prohibits the use of force in almost all situations and makes officers criminally liable for use of force.  Loves Park Police Chief Chuck Lynde reacted:

“It will make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold suspects in custody when they have been accused of crimes. It prevents the use of force in almost all situations, including those which are life-threatening.”

Chief Lunde’s sentiments were echoed by Love Park Mayor Gary Jury:

“It’s just flat out foolish. I hope our representatives see that and stand up and make a choice.”

The bill includes the elimination of cash bail and mandates the release of certain criminals without awaiting trial if they cannot afford bond.

One of the most controversial sections of H.B. 3653 eliminates qualified immunity, which protects officers from being sued unless a plaintiff can show clearly established statutory or constitutional rights were violated. Without qualified immunity, an officer could be sued for any action.

Section 5.5 of the bill reads:

“A peace officer, as defined in Section 2-13 of the Code of 2012, who subjects or causes to be subjected, including by failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any individual rights arising under the Illinois Constitution, is liable to the injured party for legal or equitable relief or any other appropriate relief.

Sovereign immunities and statutory immunities and statutory limitations on liability, damages, or attorney’s fees do not apply to claims brought under this Section. The Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act does not apply to claims brought under this Section.

 Qualified immunity is not a defense to liability under this Section.”

The United States Supreme Court recognized the importance of qualified immunity for officers in the decision of Pearson v. Callahan. In its decision, the court said:

 “Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”

The bill, however, does not remove qualified immunity from government officials or judges. It only removes the protection from police officers.

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LET Unity

State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) attacked the rushed method of the bill’s passage. He posted a statement on his Facebook page:

This is it.  The criminal law overhaul bill. 764 pages.  We received it at 3:04 am.  Debate started at 4:01 am. Who could’ve possibly read and reviewed this bill in less than an hour?  This issue deserves a thorough and serious discussion.

“Sadly, it was instead jammed through the legislature during the early morning hours of this lame-duck session. This is not how our system of government is supposed to work. 

“These types of shenanigans do not lead to a healthy democracy and, in this instance, they make our law enforcement personnel, our families, and our communities less safe. It’s 4:49 am.  It just passed the Illinois State Senate.”

Sen. Plummer also attacked the process of hijacking H.B. 163 and changing the name, calling it “smoke and mirrors”:

“This is what they think of you, Illinois…You stood up loud and clear and let the Democrat majority know that you don’t support their radical anti-police legislation, HB163.  They saw that the vast majority of Illinoisans rejected these extreme ideas and so they’ve decided to no longer push HB163.

“But they think they can trick you.  Instead of standing with our law enforcement and listening to the voices of Illinoisans, they’ve moved the extreme language to new legislation, HB3653, and are pushing it.

“Smoke & Mirrors.  That’s all it is.  Stand with our police and keep our families and communities safe, tell the Democrat majority that Illinois doesn’t support their radical anti-police legislation and their extreme ideology, no matter the bill’s number.  This legislation is an attack on the law enforcement profession and endangers our families and communities.”

Glen Carbon Police Chief Todd Link issued a statement opposing the legislation, saying that the “reforms” will destroy law enforcement:

“(The bill) would effectively end professional law enforcement throughout the state of Illinois… Should this law become law, there would be no need to defund the police because it would lead to mass retirements and resignations in police departments across Illinois like those happening in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and New York City.”

The Illinois State Attorneys Association opposed the bill, saying:

“(The bill) will profoundly undermine public safety and overturn long=standing common-sense policies and practices in the criminal justice system.”

Early today, The Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association issued a statement as an open letter to citizens of Southern Illinois. The association states that many police executives object to the bill:

“It will have a devastating effect on the ability of Illinois police officers to keep their communities safe. One has to wonder why our legislators would rush a 600+ page piece of legislation, attempting to keep the contents hidden from those it will impact.”

House Bill 3653 will now be returned to the House for a concurrence vote.

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