SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council will discuss possible bans on police use of neck restraints and no-knock warrants amid nationwide calls for police reform.
The Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to send a pair of Council Consideration Requests from District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan to a city council B-session. The CCRs request banning the use of no-knock warrants by San Antonio police, as well as the practice of the “lateral vascular neck restraint,” or LVNR -- the term SAPD uses to describe a grappling hold that reduces air or blood flow in the neck.
Police Chief William McManus told the five committee members that his department already restricts the use of the LVNR to deadly-force situations, and SAPD is finalizing a policy to allow no-knock warrants only in rare cases for arrests.
Much of the talk Tuesday revolved around the use of LVNRs.
“LVNR is supposed to be used as a last resort when escalation does not work. However, we are seeing so many instances where a hashtag is used because of an LVNR,” Andrews-Sullivan said. “If said suspect is in handcuffs, or is in a submissive hold being on aground, I do not believe that that poses a matter of life or death.”
SAPD has restricted the use of LVNRs since 2014 to situations when the use of deadly force is warranted, and McManus said he thinks the current policy “meets the spirit” of Andrews-Sullivan’s CCR.
“It’s not to restrain somebody. It’s not to move somebody around. It’s if your life is in danger as an officer or someone else’s life is in danger and that’s the means that you have available. Then that’s when an LVNR would be permitted,” McManus said.
Outside of that, the chief said an officer would be in violation of department policy and could face administrative and criminal problems. No use-of-force complaints related to choking have been substantiated by a review board in the past 10 years, McManus said.
Also in the spotlight were no-knock, or unannounced warrants, like the one used in the botched raid in Kentucky that resulted in police shooting Breonna Taylor.
The department has used fewer no-knock warrants in fewer years. The warrants are executed by the SWAT team and typically pertain to narcotics investigations, McManus said Tuesday -- using a graph of “high risk forced entry” warrants since 2017 as a reference.
The department suspended its no-knock policy in June, and no warrants have been issued since, he said.
The department is currently finalizing a new policy, the chief said, that would ban the use of no-knock warrants for search warrants across the board. No-knock warrants for arrests would only be allowed in “exigent circumstances (that) pose a serious threat to the safety of the officer or members of the public,” he said.
The new policy is expected to finalize the revisions to the SAPD Operations Manual by Sep. 4.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry was the only committee member to vote against moving the two requests to a council B-session, saying he was pleased with the policy changes that have already happened.
It was not immediately clear when the items will appear on a council agenda.
Read the CCRs in full below: