Dangerous New DOJ Policy On Chokeholds and “No-Knock” Warrants
A new memo released from the Department of Justice (DOJ) by Attorney General Merrick Garland makes policy changes that have the potential to endanger the lives of federal agents, as well as the limit the seizure of criminal evidence. According to the memo released September 14th, 2021, the DOJ is changing policy effective immediately regarding the use of chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants. The change appears inspired by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of causing Floyd’s death by using a form of a chokehold to pin him down after he resisted arrest. Breonna Taylor died in a shootout which began when her current boyfriend shot at police executing a “no-knock” warrant to arrest her former boyfriend, drug dealer Jamarcus Glover.
Regarding chokeholds, the memo states that “Department law enforcement agents and correctional officers are hereby prohibited from using a chokehold or a carotid restraint unless that standard of necessity for use of deadly force is satisfied.” United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 10, Chapter 10, Part 1047 outlines in detail the overall use of force a law enforcement officer is legally allowed to use in the carrying out of his/her duties. Subsections 5 and 6 go into detail on giving officers permissions on conducting arrests, including the use of physical force to hold and detain suspects as deemed reasonably necessary by the officer at the time of the incident. According to subsection 7, which covers deadly force, deadly force is only authorized when “its use may be justified only under conditions of extreme necessity, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed” (10 CFR § 1047.7).
Chokeholds, which are viewed as a necessary means to physically detain or restrain a suspect, and allowed for in the language provided by subsections 5 and 6 of 10 CFR 1047, can now only be used when conditions of deadly force are met. By stripping the ability to place a suspect in a chokehold who is running or resisting arrest, this policy change may increase the risk of injury or harm to federal officers, who will no longer be able to use this form of restraint when dealing with suspects who run, resist or fight. This will also allow more suspects to escape.
“No-Knock” warrants are limited by the Garland memo to situations where knocking and announcing would create an imminent threat of physical violence to a federal agent or another person. The memo does allow for a “no-knock” warrant regarding evidence, but only if it is evidence deemed essential to national security.
In 2002, Patrick Philbin, Deputy-Assistant AG for the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, issued an opinion which was published on the DOJ’s Legal Counsel page that “no-knock” warrants are acceptable “where circumstances (such as a known risk of serious harm to the officers or the likelihood that evidence of crime will be destroyed) justify such an entry” (Authority of Federal Judges and Magistrates to Issue “No-Knock Warrants). The new restriction on “no-knock” warrants when it comes to evidence collection, save national security matters, puts evidence at greater risk of being potentially tampered with or destroyed, undermining the reason for the “no-knock” warrant in the first place. Such restrictions on gathering evidence will allow offenders to avoid convictions.
It is clear that the new AG is less interested in helping federal officers catch criminals than he is in advancing politically correct policies. As a result, more officers will be injured in the line of duty. More criminals will avoid conviction and remain free to commit additional crimes.