Police use of chokeholds as torture

Let’s talk about strangling people. More specifically, how cops strangle people and how it’s a vicious cycle leading to torture and murder.

I’ve been in enough jujitsu classes to have been strangled a fair bit. I’m almost a connoisseur of strangulation. Which is to say that I know what happens when a person gets strangled.

In short – you freak the fuck out. You want it, you NEED it to stop. Panic sets in almost immediately. This is a big part of the reason how waterboarding works. When you can’t breathe, even if for a few seconds, your body freaks the fuck out.

The first part of learning to cope with chokeholds is to control the sense of panic that happens when your breathing becomes restricted. A person’s natural response to a chokehold generally makes the choke worse, because the body starts to thrash around without rhyme or reason. If you’ve got practice, you learn to stay calm, to find the spot you can breathe as best you can, or to tap if you can’t breathe… but calmly.

Most people don’t have this training, of course. For them, being strangled induces panic. Straight to panic, to a disorganized thrashing around.

Mostly, jujitsu chokes are effective. They go from “you can breath fine” to “stop right now” in about a second. And if you miss that window to tap out, well, you’re unconscious but the choking stops almost instantly because it’s jujitsu and not a murder simulator.

Police “chokeholds” seem to be of a different species, though. Often, they restrict a person’s breathing without rendering them unconscious. You can’t apply a rear-naked choke to a dude for nine minutes with him saying anything. And, indeed, it would be far more sensible (in my opinion) to render the person unconscious, restrain them, and apply medical attention if necessary – though the only time you should use a chokehold is in a life or death situation given how easy it is to kill someone with strangulation techniques.

But what we see with cops is the use of techniques that restrict a person’s breathing without rendering them unconscious. They are severe enough to provoke a panic response in the victim – and at this point, “victim” becomes the correct word – but not designed to knock them out. This is where the vicious cycle comes into play.

When you start to strangle someone, they panic and struggle. Then because they’re struggling, the police use that as a rationalization to keep applying the technique that caused them to struggle, leading to more struggle. Most of the time, of course, the person handled in this way does not die. But… strangling a person is torture. It’s why waterboarding is so horrible. Creating the sensation of strangulation, even if it isn’t “life-threatening” is a nightmarish experience particularly if you can’t do anything about it. It’s why even tough guys tap to chokeholds – it’s very hard for even very tough dudes like submission wrestlers and mixed martial artists and jujitsu fighters to let themselves be choked even though they know it won’t do lasting harm.

Of course, as applied by the police, it can and does do lasting harm. No one in a jujitsu tournament spends nine minutes sitting on a dude’s neck while they gasp and plead that they can’t breathe. That’s a verbal submission, guys. It’s the dude giving up.

Still, mostly, no, as applied by the police, these techniques don’t kill anyone. So, why do they do it? Why not, instead, use an effective choke to put them unconscious and restrain them? Or overwhelm them with brute force and restrain them? Why all this fussing around with a technique that causes the victim to panic?

That’s it, right there. Cops do it because they can claim they’re restraining someone while actually hurting them. The technique becomes a torture hold.

Choke holds are interesting amongst submissions because you can apply them fully with little chance of serious injury. You grab a dude’s neck in sparring or a tournament, and they don’t tap, all that happens is they pass out for a few seconds. A couple of minutes later, they’re basically back to normal. You can’t do that with armbars or leglocks, right? The harm done by those techniques endures in the form of broken bones and torn ligaments.

But with a chokehold? Or techniques that aren’t technically chokeholds but restrict someone’s breathing? You can do them to someone all day. You can keep doing them. For the police, doing them rationalizes that you did them – the very struggle you created by using the technique is seen as evidence for continuing the technique!

Fuck. That’s just torture. Cops hurt a guy just enough to get them to struggle in panic as a justification for keeping the panic-inducing technique on them. Frankly, if you’ve got four cops there, as with George Floyd, why was one guy sitting on his neck? Jesus, bind the guy hand and foot and TAKE YOUR FUCKING KNEE OFF HIS NECK. But the POINT was to punish George Floyd for being insufficiently obsequious to the cops, and the “knee-on-his-neck” technique was used to hurt him while also justifying the continued use of the technique – which is done by design.

It’s a technique to torture people. Plain and simple. The police use techniques to restrict a person’s breathing a form of legalized torture, mainly of black Americans.

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