Queensland top cop denies 'sleeper' chokehold backflip

·3-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Queensland's police commissioner has denied backflipping on the ban of a controversial chokehold after it was outlawed just over a month ago, and rejected union accusations her original direction was unlawful.

The use of the lateral vascular neck restraint, also known as the "sleeper" chokehold, was banned on April 14 following a 12-month review, bringing Queensland into line with other states and territories.

Queensland police on Monday clarified the "ban" and cleared officers to use the hold in dangerous situations to prevent death or grievous bodily harm.

"Our clarifying direction to officers yesterday was essentially making it very clear that these provisions still exist, as they did before," Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters on Tuesday.

"There has been no backdown or backflip, and no change on that.

"Originally, it was part of our everyday use of force."

The Queensland Police Union challenged the ban at the state Industrial Relations Commission, saying it prevented officers defending themselves.

"I and all police always knew the commissioner of police was acting unlawfully when she unilaterally issued an unlawful direction to ban police using (the restraint)," union boss Ian Leavers told AAP.

"Thankfully the QPU has now overturned this unlawful direction.

"We knew we had to keep police safe and now the commissioner's original unlawful direction has been rescinded, the QPU has ensured that police can again use the restraint to defend themselves."

Ms Carroll rejected the union's claim to the commission her directive was unlawful, saying only the original directive had been unclear and because of that police might have thought she had made an lawful or unlawful direction.

She said in her email police could use any use of force to prevent harm but made "very clear" the restraint was removed from everyday use-of-force options.

Queensland police were previously trained to apply the hold during a violent struggle at the point of arrest.

The restraint involves compressing the arteries and veins in the neck and cutting blood supply to the brain, leading to loss of consciousness.

In April, the commission said the restraint would no longer be "a use of force option for all officers, effective immediately".

She said while the hold had been available to officers for a long time, the options had increased and broadened since its introduction more than 30 years ago.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to step in.

Council vice-president Terry O'Gorman said the premier should "intervene in this farcical controversy and bring Queensland in line with the rest of the country and outlaw police using the fatal stranglehold completely in absolutely all cases".

"The premier has to decide who is running the QPS, the commissioner or the police union."

Since 2011, the use of the restraint has been considered in four separate fatal incidents by Queensland coroners, most recently the death of a 27-year-old Aboriginal man in 2021.

The technique was the subject of a review by Queensland Police.

Ms Carroll set up a working group in 2022 involving the police union, the Crime and Corruption Commission and medical experts.