Ending a long string of lawsuits over the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of the carotid chokehold, the City Council on Tuesday agreed to pay $450,000 to the father of a man who died 11 years ago in police custody.
James Mincey Jr.'s death was the 16th over seven years that was attributed to the chokehold, and it led to the Los Angeles Police Commission’s virtual ban on the use of the tactic.
Tuesday’s City Council vote settles the last in a series of cases against the city, just as some officers are arguing that the tactic is not dangerous and should be reinstated.
The payment to James Mincey Sr. is in addition to $1.1 million paid to four other Mincey relatives.
Mincey’s case has several similarities to that of Rodney G. King, whose 1991 beating also led to calls for reform of the Police Department’s use of force policies.
Mincey, a 20-year-old African-American, was pursued by Los Angeles Foothill Division officers in the spring of 1982 after he reportedly failed to stop for a police officer who saw his car’s cracked windshield. Mincey had been cited a few minutes before for speeding and the cracked windshield but, in the second encounter, he sped off and led officers on a high-speed chase, authorities said.
The police finally stopped Mincey in front of his mother’s home in Lake View Terrace, where he was taken into custody. But officers said Mincey began to struggle when they tried to switch his handcuffs from in front to behind his back. He was restrained by several officers, including one who applied the chokehold.
Mincey died two weeks later after neck injuries deprived his brain of adequate oxygen, according to a coroner’s report.
The Police Commission subsequently barred officers from using the hold except in life-threatening situations.
But some officers have recently argued for a restoration of the tactic, saying the King case proved that police do not have adequate techniques to restrain suspects. “Anything should be looked at that would help our officers do their job,” said David Zeigler, president of the police officer’s union. “Other departments still use it and without any adverse effect that I know of.”
But City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said there is incontrovertible evidence that the hold led to a number of deaths, most of them among young African-American men. “I think the moratorium on the hold in the last decade has not only saved money, but saved lives,” Yaroslavsky said.