Three days after George Floyd died with a Minneapolis police officer choking off his air, another Black man writhed on the tarmac of a street in Paris as a police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
Immobilization techniques where officers apply pressure with their knees on prone suspects are used in policing around the world and have long drawn criticism. One reason why Floyd’s death is sparking anger and touching nerves globally is that such techniques have been blamed for asphyxiations and other deaths in police custody beyond American shores, often involving non-white suspects.
“We cannot say that the American situation is foreign to us,” said French lawmaker Francois Ruffin, who has pushed for a ban on the police use of face-down holds that are implicated in multiple deaths in France, a parliamentary effort put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.
The muscular arrest on May 28 in Paris of a Black man who was momentarily immobilized face-up with an officer’s knee and upper shin pressing down on his jaw, neck and upper chest is among those that have drawn angry comparisons with the killing of Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
The Paris arrest was filmed by bystanders and widely shared and viewed online. Police said the man was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and without a license and that he resisted arrest and insulted officers. His case was turned over to prosecutors.
In Hong Kong, where police behavior is a hot-button issue after months of anti-government protests, the city’s force says it is investigating the death of a man who was immobilized face-down during his arrest in May by officers who were filmed kneeling on his shoulder, back and neck.
Police rules and procedures on chokeholds and restraints vary internationally.
In Belgium, police instructor Stany Durieux says he reprimands trainees, docking them points, “every time I see a knee applied to the spinal column.”
“It is also forbidden to lean on a suspect completely, as this can crush his rib cage and suffocate him,” he said.
Condemned by police and experts in the United States, Floyd’s death also drew criticism from officers abroad who disassociated themselves from the behavior of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He was charged with third-degree murder after he was filmed pushing down with his knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd stopped crying out that he couldn’t breathe and eventually stopped moving.
In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”
In Germany, officers are allowed to briefly exert pressure on the side of a suspect’s head but not on the neck, says Germany‘s GdP police union.