07/31/2004

Dallas Chief Bans Neck Hold Criticized By Civil Rights Groups

The Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) -- After months of protest from civil rights groups, Police Chief David Kunkle has banned the department's use of a neck hold that contributed to a man's death last year.

Kunkle said Friday he plans to brief Dallas City Council members on his decision Monday and ask them to buy 400 Tasers, a type of electrical stun gun.

The chief's briefing paper to the council said the neck hold is "difficult to apply in field conditions" and officers may not know about suspects' pre-existing medical conditions.

The Rev. L. Charles Stovall of the Unified Organizations for Justice, an activist coalition, welcomed the ban.

"This is something that needed to be done, and it's something that we rejoice is happening," Stovall said.

But Cpl. George Aranda, president of the Latino Peace Officers Association, criticized Kunkle's decision.

"To ban a tool that has been effective for so many years due to community pressure is an insult to our Dallas officers," Aranda said in Saturday's editions of The Dallas Morning News. "I think with some updated training and better techniques, we could have saved this tool."

The neck hold, known as the lateral vascular neck restraint, has been under review since Allen Simpson died in December. Simpson was placed in a neck hold during a fight with two police officers who were investigating a drug complaint.

Training experts have said the restraint is safe when used correctly, but many departments have banned it.

If the council agrees to buy the Tasers, they could be used against suspects who resist arrest, fail to follow orders or threaten bystanders, officers or themselves.

"All the research we've seen on the Taser shows that it's very effective and can be used without the officers having direct contact with subjects," Kunkle said.

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