LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva talks use of sleeper hold, push to 'defund the police'

The death of George Floyd has sparked renewed calls for law enforcement reform, and an end of excessive use of force including the use of carotid artery restraints, also known as sleeper holds.

Several local law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are halting the use of those policing tactics amid increased scrutiny.

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In L.A. County, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to support AB 1196, which would ban carotid artery restraints throughout the state.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said his department's use of force policy bans carotid restraints except in deadly force situations. He joined Eyewitness News to further discuss that, as well as the larger discussion around law enforcement currently echoing throughout the nation.

Can you clarify what situation would call for that kind of force and tell us if that moratorium will be made permanent?

"Right now, we need to have everybody slow down and examine when the carotid restraint is used and for what purposes. The misperception that somehow the murder of George Floyd was an application of carotid restraint... nothing further from the truth. That was just straight murder and that was not a legitimate use of force. What we do wanna do is not take away a tool for an officer, a deputy who is fighting for his or her life... taking away a tool that may allow them to not use deadly force.... We just have to keep that context and not lose that."

On incidents in Lynwood and Compton in which L.A. County sheriff's deputies are accused of using excessive force on suspects:

"Both incidents happened and our policy is once you use force, the deputy is required to report the use of force to a supervisor... In both cases, that's exactly what the deputies did. They used force, they reported to a supervisor and that initiates the use of force investigation, not because the video was made public and somehow we're reacting to it, no... Now we're going through the process of seeing what happened and seeing if the force was within policy and was lawful. If it exceeds the boundaries of either policy or lawfulness, well then there will be repercussions and we'll hold them accountable to that."

We've heard a lot about the movement to "defund the police." What's your perspective on that?

"If we lived in a utopian society, great idea, because that's resources that we can devote to other causes. However, as long as we have problems with crime levels, with murder, robbery, rape, all these violent crimes... all of those are going to need law enforcement to remedy that... There's always going to be a need for law enforcement and we obviously want to make sure that in the total picture, what we're funding with the government at the local level, part of the requirements is that we have to provide public safety. That's never going to go away."

See the video above for the full interview.
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