KENOSHA, Wis. — The Kenosha Police Department says officer Shawn Guetschow has been placed on “desk duty” while the department investigates his actions during an off-duty arrest of a child earlier this month.
It happened at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha where the officer worked as a security guard up until he resigned from that position last week.
Viral school surveillance video shows the off-duty officer restraining a girl by placing his knee on her neck for about 20 seconds. A new law in Wisconsin bans the use of police chokeholds except in last resort situations to defend themselves.
Robert Willis is a retired officer and deputy who spent decades providing use-of-force training to thousands of Wisconsin law enforcement officers.
"The neck restraint, the blood choke, whatever you want to call it, has never been a tactic trained or utilized by the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “Again, I wrote the original manual. If any department did adopt it, it was on their own. They had to write their own policy, they had to write their own justifications."
Wisconsin’s new law prohibits police departments from allowing chokeholds unless the officer’s life is in imminent danger, but it doesn’t spell out any punishment or penalties for violating that law. Willis says that doesn’t mean officers cannot be prosecuted for using excessive force.
“Even if there was no serious injury or death, certainly an officer could be charged with battery, aggravated battery or some other criminal offense using that particular technique,” Willis said.
Kenosha’s use-of-force policy says, “the use of chokeholds is prohibited except in those situations where deadly force is allowed and only as a last resort."
When it comes to off-duty arrests, Kenosha Police Department’s policy states, “the off-duty arresting officer shall abide by all departmental policies and procedures, specifically those policies in regards to use of force and arrest."
Willis says that policy is in place to protect officers as well.
"If the officer were injured or killed, there needs to be protections like workman's compensation, duty disability, death benefits, medical care, long term job retention, those sorts of things,” Willis said.
William Sulton is a Milwaukee civil rights attorney who focuses on police misconduct cases. He believes officer Guetschow violated use-of-force policies.
“It's a violation of the new current law, it's a violation of the city of Kenosha Police Department's current policies banning chokeholds,” Sulton said.
Sulton believes the video shows the officer was not in a situation where a neck restraint would be considered the last resort to get the child into custody.
"First, we're talking about a child. This is not a person who was going to overtake the officer,” he said. “Second, we're not talking about an armed and dangerous person who was attacking the officer. There's just simply no legal basis for the officer to take the child to the ground and place his knee on her neck for an extended period of time."
TMJ4 News asked the Kenosha Police Department if it has asked an outside law enforcement agency to handle this investigation, but the department has yet to respond to our inquiry.