Officer Knee to Neck Restraint Not Allowed by Most Bay Area Agencies

After video surfaced of a SFPD officer using her knee to restrain a man by his neck, NBC Bay Area reached out to more than a dozen law enforcement agencies asking if they allow such practice.

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After video of an ex-Minneapolis police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck sparked international protests, a handful of videos depicting other officers using similar tactics surfaced.

One of the cases involves a San Francisco police officer.

Over the weekend, cellphone video started circulating of SFPD officers detaining a young man in the city’s Atoll Circle area on January 25, 2020. It shows one officer placing her knee on the man’s neck while telling him, “We ordered you to leave, but you didn’t.” Another officer later asks the man if he was injured.

SFPD Arrest January 25, 2020

In addition to releasing a statement, SFPD also released police body worn video from five different angles showing more of the incident.

SFPD Internal Affairs is conducting a review of this arrest.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott has ordered an administrative review of the arrest and invited the city’s Department of Police Accountability to independently investigate the case.

Lt. Mike Nevin with the department’s Field Tactic-Force Options Unit told NBC Bay Area SFPD does not allow for officers to place their knees on someone’s neck as a form of restraint.

“What I saw in the video from Minneapolis, Minnesota, it was horrific,” he said.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit reached out to more than a dozen Bay Area law enforcement agencies to learn about their use-of-force policies and knee to neck tactics.  

The following agencies told our team they do not allow for officers or deputies to place knees on necks as a form of restraint:

Fremont Police Department, Berkeley Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, Hayward Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

As of Monday evening, the following agencies did not get back to us:

Oakland Police Department, Richmond Police Department, Vallejo Police Department and Contra Costa County Sheriff’s .

When asked about their policy on knee to neck restraint, a San Jose police spokesperson said, “Our policies cannot cover every situation.”

A handful of Bay Area law enforcement agencies allow for a “carotid hold” if the officer is trained and the situation calls for it. The hold is meant to restrict blood flow through a person’s artery located in the neck. Use-of-force experts say it should not be done with an officer’s knee, rather his/her arms.

The San Francisco Police Department has not allowed for its officers to perform carotid holds since 2016.

If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit, email or call 888-996-TIPS. Follow Candice on Facebook and Twitter at @CandiceNguyenTV, or send her an email at

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