By Megan Wehring
Demonstrations continue to grow as the American public protest against police brutality.
Kyle Police and the city council on June 16 reviewed the police department’s policies regarding how they align with the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign.
The campaign is to implement policies that will reduce immediate harm caused by police and increase community safety. One of the policies, coming after George Floyd’s death, is to ban chokeholds and strangleholds. Kyle Chief of Police Jeff Barnett discussed the department’s view on the use of restraints in certain situations.
“We do not allow a chokehold,” Barnett said. “Chokeholds are intended to block the airway. Those are prohibited and we do not allow those. We do have this trained technique that is not considered a chokehold because it’s not blocking the airway, but it is a restraint hold around the neck that reduces blood flow.”
In the Kyle Police policy, the carotid restraint control hold is only allowed when it’s necessary to prevent harm to the officer or another person. Barnett said the events that happened in Minneapolis would not align with the policies.
“What we all witnessed on television recently in Minneapolis, that was a chokehold,” Barnett said. “The use of the body and placement of a knee on the neck that did block the airway of an individual, in my opinion, is a chokehold. Those are absolutely prohibited and they’re not allowed by our policy.”
Tracy Scheel, Kyle City Council member, questioned whether the restraint control hold should be allowed by the police.
“Limiting blood to the brain can also cause a traumatic brain injury,” Scheel said. “A TBI (traumatic brain injury) is anything from limited function to a vegetative state. That concerns me. The idea of somebody being in a vegetative state just bothers me. I really hope that you do really look into that and maybe very highly consider taking even that type of control out of the policy.”
Tactics used by the police across the country are being questioned, causing many to leave their homes and join massive crowds to protest. Alex Villalobos, Kyle City Council member, is concerned about the training that police officers undergo when learning about restraints.
“I think currently with the resources and what we have in place is that if we strictly write it,” Villabolos said. “I think it’s better to take it out at this point until we can assess it, understand it and provide the resources for our officers to effectively use it on a consistent basis.”
While officers have to be trained to use the restraint choke hold, Barnett said the officers can use other techniques and tools on hand if they’re not authorized to use the restraint. If available, they can use tools on their belt including a taser or pepper spray. Barnett said if officers feel that they or another person is in a situation where they could be killed, they are allowed to use deadly force with a handgun.
Mayor Travis Mitchell highlighted the public’s concern about implementing a clear policy within police departments to establish which tactics are allowed.
“When you don’t create a black and white rule, you allow for grey areas,” Mitchell said. “The association and general response we’ve seen historically has been one of using that grey area to allow for officers to misuse those policies. There’s a fine line between appropriate use of force and inappropriate use of force.”
In the “8 Can’t Wait” policies, officers have a duty to intervene and prevent excessive force. Officers are also required to report these incidents immediately. Barnett addressed the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics as it pertains to how officers are expected to act in any given situation.
“‘I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions,’” Barnett read from the code at the city council meeting. “‘With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.’”
Regarding Floyd’s death and related events, many are still shaken up after what happened in the hands of police officers. Robert Rizo, Kyle City Council member, said he’s felt uncomfortable bringing up the event in conversation because Floyd’s life was taken from him suddenly.
“I’ve never seen someone’s life taken away so slowly, methodically,” Rizo said. “It really hurt me to see that there’s evil like that in the world. It’s been kind of hard to talk about. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen.”
Similar to others, council member Dex Ellison grew up in an environment where there was a natural fear of the police. Ellison said that watching one terrible event can alter the way you view the world.
“You were raised to dislike and have distrust of law enforcement based on a myriad of examples and circumstances that you see with your own two eyes,” Ellison said. “When you feel helpless to do anything about it, it’s a difficult relationship to build.”
In honor of Juneteenth Day, Ellison moderated the Inaugural Dialogue for Peace and Protest Summit on June 19.