Walker police chief: No chokeholds, other methods that ‘may restrict breathing’ can be used

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Walker Police Chief David Addison, at right, has vowed to ban “chokeholds” and other uses of force that “may restrict breathing” in his department as debates rage across the nation regarding police brutality following the recent death of an unarmed African American by law enforcement.

WALKER, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – Walker Police Chief David Addison has vowed to ban “chokeholds” and other uses of force that “may restrict breathing” in his department as debates rage across the nation regarding police brutality following the recent death of an unarmed African American by law enforcement.

In a post on his Facebook page Monday afternoon, Addison said he has instructed his officers “both verbally and through email” to avoid using methods that “may restrict breathing” on any detainee.

Addison, who has been chief since 2016, also said that once a detainee is handcuffed, “no further action” should be taken except placing the detainee in a police unit. No other action will be tolerated, he said.

“As long as I am in office, the Walker Police Dept. will act in the most professional and caring manner that both the bad actor being detained and our City deserves,” Addison wrote. “Any deviation from strict policy will not be tolerated. Our city does not deserve a black eye from a bad acting Police Dept.”

“We, the Walker Police Department, are here to serve and protect you in the most proficient and professional manner that both sides of the law deserves.”

Addison’s post came one day before funeral services for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers has sparked marches and demonstrations across the country, with protesters calling for major police reforms to outlaw excessive use of force by law enforcement and stiffer penalties for those who do.

Floyd’s death on May 25 was captured by several bystanders on their cell phones. In the videos, Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” and calling out for his mother before he becomes still with a police officer’s knee pressed down on his neck while three other officers stand by.

The four officers involved in the incident have since been fired and arrested on various charges related to Floyd’s death. Derek Chauvin, the one who used his knee to hold Floyd down, faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

In Louisiana, protests and marches have been held in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Zachary, Lafayette, and Lake Charles, among other cities. They’ve remained peaceful for the most part, though the New Orleans Police Department was captured spraying crowds with tear gas last week and shooting rubber bullets at protestors over the weekend.

Locally, demonstrators held a peaceful march in Livingston Parish on June 2, traveling a total of four miles from the L.M. Lockhart Center in Denham Springs to the Raising Cane’s parking lot near Interstate 12 and back.

The march, organized by two Denham Springs residents, lasted roughly 90 minutes and saw cooperation between the protesters and local law enforcement.

Last week, Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, introduced legislation to be filed for consideration during the 2021 Regular Legislative Session entitled the “Zero Tolerance Police Brutality Act of 2021.”

Among other changes, Fields is calling for a requirement that police officers undergo psychological analysis, a ban on choke-holds, a mandate that peace officers intervene when their colleagues engage in misconduct, and enhance criminal penalties for peace officers who utilize excessive force without reasonable cause that results in serious bodily harm.

“I want those who are out there peacefully protesting to know that you are making a difference,” Fields said in announcing the proposal. “We hear you! We see you! Now is the time for us as lawmakers to implement change from a policy perspective.”

On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards responded to the ongoing protests and calls for police reform, saying he wants people to voice their concerns, “which by the way are entirely legitimate,” and do so in a way that exercises their First Amendment rights.

“They shouldn’t have to worry about the hand of LE being too heavy,” Edwards said.

While the governor said he is “not for” defunding police departments, he admitted that “some reforms are necessary” to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities it protects.

“When you invest in appropriate police work… you are investing in the community,” Edwards said. But it does need to be appropriate. We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure that our officers are interacting with the public without unreasonable use of force.

“I think some reforms are necessary here and elsewhere to make sure that happens.”

Below is a copy of Addison’s post (Note: This post has been slightly edited.)

“Hello, I just want to let everyone know that in our line of work, we walk a fine line between upholding the laws and statues and what is right and lawful in dealing with crime within our community.

“As long as I am in office, the Walker Police Dept. will act in the most professional and caring manner that both the bad actor being detained and our City deserves. Any deviation from strict policy will not be tolerated. Our city does not deserve a black eye from a bad acting Police Dept.

“I have instructed both verbally and through email that no choke holds or any other methods that may restrict breathing ever be used on any detainee by any Officer in this department. Also, once a detainee is handcuffed, no further action should be taken, only placing a detainee in our transporting unit. No other action will be tolerated by myself, Chief Addison.

“We, the Walker Police Department, are here to serve and protect you in the most proficient and professional manner that both sides of the law deserves.”

David Gray | The News

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