Ottawa to Order RCMP to Ban Neck Restraints, Tear Gas, and Rubber Bullets: Mendicino

Ottawa to Order RCMP to Ban Neck Restraints, Tear Gas, and Rubber Bullets: Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino rises during question period in the House of Commons, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 4, 2022. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)
Isaac Teo

The federal government is planning to order the RCMP to end the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and neck restraints, says Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

In an interview with CBC News reported on May 26, Mendicino said his office will direct RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in the coming days to ban the force from using those techniques in the course of their work.
The interview coinciding with the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death. He died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, 2020, and his death sparked widespread riots and protests, as well as calls to “defund the police.”

Mendicino said he hopes his directive to the RCMP will serve as a blueprint for other police services across Canada to follow.

“There are some police services that have already taken those steps, but we think that with a new and modernized set of policies around the use of force by the RCMP, it can serve as a role model for other law enforcement branches across the country,” he said.

The minister added that he anticipates the RCMP will work toward ending the use of the noted techniques by the end of the year.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, is serving 22.5 years in prison after being convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter last year. The ex-officer also pleaded guilty to violating Floyd’s civil rights in a federal case, where he now faces a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Following Floyd’s death, Lucki confirmed on June 9, 2020, that the RCMP would examine the use of “carotid control technique” (CCT) and that a review was ongoing.

According to the RCMP, the CCT is not a chokehold.

“The technique, when applied properly and per training, does not restrict breathing, and does not put any pressure on the windpipe,” said the law enforcement agency on Public Safety Canada’s website last March, updated on Aug. 16, 2021.

“It applies pressure to both sides of a person’s neck, without restricting the airway. It may cause, but not always, a very brief period of unconsciousness that allows the police officer to safely place the individual in handcuffs.”

The RCMP added that every officer must recertify in the CCT every three years, and such techniques will only be used when an officer “fears grievous bodily harm or death for themselves or any other person.”

The agency also argued that the knee-to-the-neck technique is not carotid control and shouldn’t be confused with carotid control.

“Carotid control does not include the use of the legs for restraint. The RCMP does not teach or endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck,” the Mounties said at the time.

“Based on the existing research, policy, and training, as well as the robust oversight and accountability measures in place for the carotid control technique, the RCMP has opted not to suspend use of the technique while the medical review remains ongoing.”

During the CBC interview, Mendicino said the Liberal government is committed to reforming law enforcement in Canada.

On May 19, a week before the minister’s interview, the RCMP posted a notice on Public Safety Canada’s website saying it has the support of the federal department to pursue a “transformation agenda,” with banning the use of neck restraints, tear gas, and rubber bullets among its priorities.

“Success will require continued action to respond to evolving public expectations, address critical issues such as systemic racism and discrimination in policing, and adapt to an evolving criminal landscape,” the notice said.

In response to the upcoming mandates by Mendicino, former RCMP Chief Superintendent Garrett Woolsey took to Twitter, warning that the ban of these techniques in an attempt to appeal to interest groups will do more harm than good to the public.
“This is incredibly shortsighted and will increase the risk to the public. Neck restraint is very rarely used. Tear gas and impact rounds are used to safely resolve high risk crisis situations,” Woolsey said in a series of tweets.
The RCMP had said the CCT is used an average of 36 times per year.
“Sad to see pandering to interest groups take precedence over public safety,” Woolsey said.

“Policing is a prov responsibility. Are they in agreement with this major change to RCMP operations that will make their citizens less safe?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.