Neck Restraint Bans Linked to Reduction in Police-Involved Fatalities, Lower Crime Rates, Study Shows


A Rutgers-Newark study involving more than 2,000 police departments nationwide found that police-involved killings were lower in places that adopted neck-restraint bans. Crime rates were also lower and fewer officers were assaulted in those cities.

“This tell us pretty clearly that these bans have benefits in decreasing police killings but no effect in increasing crime,’’ said Brenden Beck, an associate processor at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers-Newark.

According to Beck, the study, which was published in the journal Criminology and Public Policy, was the largest of its kind, encompassing 2,183 departments from across the country between 2009 and 2021. 

After the murder of George Floyd, who died in 2020 when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, asphyxiating him, activists and others successfully pushed for the bans. The death of Eric Garner, killed in 2016 after New York City police applied a chokehold, also fueled the movement to ban the restraints.

Before 2015, only a handful of cities had neck-restraint bans in place, including New York, which allowed them only when an officer’s life was in danger. But today, they’ve been adopted by the majority of large departments, says Beck.

Beck is quick to point out that in all of the cities he studied, neck-restraints bans were among broader use-of-force limits that included restrictions such as regulating when tasers or batons can be used and under what circumstances officers can chase suspects on foot or in patrol cars.

“We can’t say whether the neck-restraint bans work in isolation or need to be adopted with other use-of-force regulations,’’ he explained. “More likely, the neck restraint ban is an indication of a department’s general use of force polices and whether they encourage non-violence and de-escalation.’’

He added that of all civilians killed by police, few die from asphyxiation, only one to two percent. Most killed by police die in shootings. But all fatalities were lower among departments that  banned neck restraints.

Beck says that one difference between his research and similar studies is that his team included more cities and didn’t limit data to information reported by the departments themselves or compiled through government entities, which can be incomplete or complicated by subjectivity or self-interest.

“Some departments or agencies might not have compiled it because it wasn’t a priority or they might have an overly restrictive view of what constitutes a police-involved fatality,’’ said Beck.

His research drew from the Fatal Encounters database, a site founded by a journalist to objectively document instances where civilians died as a result of police actions.

Although Black men are disproportionately more likely than other groups to be killed by police, Beck said it was too difficult to factor race into his study since the data collected didn’t always specify race and because Black people, who are 14 percent of the population, constitute a smaller demographic nationwide than white people.

“We can’t really say the data set is big enough,’’ he explained.

Additional findings from the study indicate that in cities where neck restraints were banned, crimes are solved at a higher rate, said Beck. He speculated that it could be because there is more trust and cooperation built between police and communities when departments are less likely to use force.

“It’s an indication of a well-functioning department,’’ he said.