BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A newly revised policy limits when Brevard County sheriff’s deputies are authorized to use neck restraints to gain control of a subject, News 6 has learned.
Under the new rules, a deputy may only use a vascular neck restraint when a justifiable use of deadly force exists to protect the deputy or others.
Prior to the policy’s revision on June 29, deputies were authorized to use vascular neck restraints when a subject merely presented “active resistance” such as bracing, tensing, pushing or pulling without attempting to injure the deputy.
“You’re going to do everything you can to save your life or the other person’s life,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey told News 6 in explaining the need for vascular neck restraints.
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office is one of the only law enforcement agencies in Central Florida that trains its officers to use neck restraints.
Ivey said the policy revision was prompted, in part, by feedback from the community in wake of nationwide discussions about police reform.
“If our citizens have a concern about something, we want to look at it and see if it is something we need to address or something we need to adjust,” Ivey said.
Ivey said his decision was also based on data showing his deputies rarely used vascular neck restraints under the prior, less restrictive policy.
In 2019, deputies used a vascular neck restraint only once, records obtained by News 6 show.
In a second incident, a deputy attempted to execute a vascular neck restraint but was unable to complete the maneuver, sheriff’s records indicate.
Following the release of video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, many advocates for police reform have called for neck restraints to be banned.
“What happened to George Floyd should not have happened to anyone,” said Ivey, pointing out that the technique used by his deputies is nothing like what is seen in the Floyd video.
“That is not a vascular neck restraint. In fact, that is not a technique that has ever, in my 40 years of law enforcement, ever been taught,” Ivey said.
The maneuver used by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, which is authorized and taught by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, involves squeezing a subject’s arteries to temporarily limit blood flow to the brain.
The technique is different from a chokehold, which restricts a subject’s ability to breathe.
Ivey said his revised policy limiting vascular neck restraints to situations requiring deadly force now reflects an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in June that prohibits the use of chokeholds except in deadly force situations.
The president’s executive order does not specifically address vascular neck restraints.
Under the revised policy, Brevard County deputies can only use vascular neck restraints when there is a “reasonable belief that all other response to resistance options are not feasible or have been exhausted and that his or her life, the life of a fellow deputy, or that other innocent person is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”
The last time a Brevard County deputy used a vascular neck restraint was in October 2019, records show, prior to the policy revisions limiting its use.
While questioning Jay Le, who had been seen sitting in the middle of Interstate 95 before running into the woods, investigators said the subject pushed a deputy away from him.
“A fight ensued, and the defendant was attempting to grab me,” Deputy Johnny Narvaez wrote in a report. “The subject fell on top of me and I was on my back, and the subject continued resisting my efforts. At this time, I applied a lateral vascular neck restraint, which was effective.”
As required by the sheriff’s policy, Le was taken to the hospital to undergo a medical evaluation following the use of a vascular neck restraint.
Le later pleaded no contest to battery on a law enforcement officer and was sentenced to probation.
Two months before Le’s arrest, another Brevard County sheriff’s deputy attempted to subdue a man using a vascular neck restraint but was unable to successfully execute the maneuver, records show.
According to an arrest report, Allen Gorsline ignored a sergeant’s commands while being questioned about riding his bicycle at night without a light.
As the sergeant and another deputy attempted to pat down Gorsline for their safety, they claim he tensed up and pulled away from their grasp.
Deputy Andrew Johnson positioned one of his arms around Gorsline’s neck and attempted to apply a vascular neck restraint while escorting him to the ground, according to a report.
“I was able to successfully place my right arm into the correct position, but due to the position Mr. Gorsline and I had fallen, I was unable to utilize my left arm to complete the (vascular neck restraint) technique,” Johnson wrote.
Video of the takedown, recorded by a patrol vehicle dashboard camera, shows Johnson’s arm around Gorsline’s neck for about 20 seconds before the sergeant was able to secure the subject in handcuffs.
“I’ve been arrested probably 30 times in my life, and I’ve never had handcuffs on me the way they had them on me,” Gorsline told News 6.
Although Gorsline denied that he put up resistance, he acknowledged pulling away from the deputy.
“I snatched away from him,” Gorsline said. “I mean, I might have struggled a little bit when that son of a (expletive) grabbed my arm.”
Under the agency’s policy at the time, evasive actions similar to the one Gorsline described were grounds for the use of a vascular neck restraint.
Even though Johnson acknowledged placing his arm around the subject’s neck, Gorsline was unaware that the deputy had done so.
“None of them had their arm around my neck,” Gorsline told News 6 before viewing video of his arrest.
In the video, Gorsline is never heard complaining about the attempted neck restraint and did not express concern about it to News 6.
Gorsline was cited for possessing an open container of beer in public. Sheriff’s officials also recommended that Gorsline be charged with resisting arrest, but the state attorney did not pursue the misdemeanor case.
Of the nearly 10,000 arrests made by Brevard County deputies in 2019, deputies responded to resistance in less than 200 cases, records show.
The arrests of Le and Gorsline were the only times vascular neck restraints were attempted, reports indicate.
During that same year, deputies used deadly force twice, according to an agency spokesman, including during a gun battle over feral cats that left a deputy injured.
A Taser was deployed during 36 incidents in 2019, records show, while pepper spray was used on two occasions.
In a majority of the arrests in which deputies faced resistance, other take down maneuvers and handcuffs were used to bring the subjects under control, records indicate.
Ivey finds it noteworthy that more than 98% of subjects were taken into custody peacefully and without a struggle.
“I think that speaks to the professionalism of our agency, it speaks to the professionalism of our deputies, and also to the fact that most people are compliant,” Ivey said.