An administrator at Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School in San Luis Obispo is on suspension after he placed a student in a headlock during lunch on Nov. 3. Several students then shared photos of the altercation on social media.
Photos show Russ Griffith, a former San Luis Obispo police officer, restraining a star of the football team in a carotid choke hold. In this type of hold, a person’s neck is placed in a V between an officer’s forearm and upper arm while pressure is applied to the carotid arteries on the sides of the neck.
The student was not injured in the alleged assault and he played football later that evening, a parent of another student said.
Shortly after 2 p.m., police were dispatched to the school to investigate the altercation. Less than two-hours later, officers listed the altercation as an assault, wrote a report, but did not make an arrest, according to the police department’s summary report.
“The department investigated the complaint which did involve Russ Griffith as the administrator in question,” said Captain Chris Staley. “The report will be sent to the District Attorney for review.”
Several parents at the school have voiced concerns over the alleged assault and the school’s lack of transparency. Multiple email and calls to the school requesting to speak to or have questions answered by either Griffith or Principal Michael Susank have not been returned.
Before moving to San Luis Obispo in 1994, Griffith worked as a police officer in Los Angeles, in a department that permits officers to use the carotid restraint, but restricts it to situations requiring deadly force.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department also allows officers to use the carotid control hold to restrain violent or combative individuals, according to department policy 300.3.5.
Officers are prohibited from using the carotid hold on juveniles “unless the totality of the circumstances indicates that other available options reasonably appear ineffective, or would present a greater danger to the officer, the subject or others, and the officer reasonably believes that the need to control the individual outweighs the risk of applying a carotid control hold.”
Department policy 300.3.5 Carotid Control Hold:
The proper application of the carotid control hold may be effective in restraining a violent or combative individual. However, due to the potential for injury, the use of the carotid control hold is subject to the following:
a) The officer shall have successfully completed department-approved training in the use and application of the carotid control hold.
b) The carotid control hold may only be used when circumstances perceived by the officer at the time indicate that such application reasonably appears necessary to control a person in any of the following circumstances:
1. The subject is violent or physically resisting.
2. The subject, by words or actions, has demonstrated an intention to be violent and reasonably appears to have the potential to harm officers, him/herself or others.
c) The application of a carotid control hold on the following individuals should generally be avoided unless the totality of the circumstances indicates that other available options reasonably appear ineffective, or would present a greater danger to the officer, the subject or others, and the officer reasonably believes that the need to control the individual outweighs the risk of applying a carotid control hold:
1. Females who are known to be pregnant
2. Elderly individuals
3. Obvious juveniles
4. Individuals who appear to have Down syndrome or who appear to have obvious neck deformities or malformations, or visible neck injuries
d. Any individual who has had the carotid control hold applied, regardless of whether he/she was rendered unconscious, shall be promptly examined by paramedics or other qualified medical personnel and should be monitored until examined by paramedics or other appropriate medical personnel.
e. The officer shall inform any person receiving custody, or any person placed in a position of providing care, that the individual has been subjected to the carotid control hold and whether the subject lost consciousness as a result.
f. Any officer attempting or applying the carotid control hold shall promptly notify a supervisor of the use or attempted use of such hold.
g. The use or attempted use of the carotid control hold shall be thoroughly documented by the officer in any related reports.