Department of Homeland Security limits no-knock warrants, chokeholds in updated use-of-force policy

It's the first update to the policy since 2018.

February 7, 2023, 12:12 PM

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday updated its use-of-force policy for when the 80,000 officers under the agency's authority encounter the public.

The new guidelines limit the use of no-knock warrants, bar the use of chokeholds under unnecessary circumstances and beef up training for officers.

DHS has nine law enforcement agencies under its purview, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Secret Service.

"[Law enforcement officers] may use force only when no reasonably effective, safe and feasible alternative appears to exist and may only use the level of force that is objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the LEO at the time force is applied," according to a memo signed by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

It is the first update to the use-of-force guidelines since 2018, according to DHS who said they came to these policies with department leaders and national labor organizations.

The Department of Homeland Security said the update to the use of force policy has clear "standards" the policy sets forth "including prohibitions on the use of deadly force against a person whose actions are only a threat to themselves or property."

PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the United States Conference of Mayors 91st Winter Meeting, Jan. 19, 2023 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the United States Conference of Mayors 91st Winter Meeting, Jan. 19, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

"At the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, I announced the first Law Enforcement Coordination Council at DHS, designed to improve the ways we listen to and support our law enforcement agents and officers, the largest force in the federal government," Mayorkas said. "Through the Council, law enforcement leaders from across the Department carefully crafted these updates to ensure we are living up to our values. Law enforcement agents and officers have profound responsibilities in their noble profession. We are grateful for the sacrifices they make every day and are confident that, working together, we can build safer and fairer processes to enforce our laws."

DHS is limiting the use of no-knock warrants only to situations "where knocking would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the LEO or another person or only for evidence perseveration in national security matters."

No-knock warrants have been the subject of scrutiny after the Louisville Police Department used one when entering the residence of of Brionna Taylor – fatally killing her.

Mayorkas also barred chokeholds from being used "unless deadly force is authorized."

Additionally, the Department wants their agencies to collect data on use of force incidents to better study the issue.

DHS is also reshaping the training officers are going through, with an emphasis on de-escalation training, deadly force, duty to intervene and implicit bias training.

The law enforcement officers under DHS' authority also include border agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol.

DHS offices and agencies will draft and issue updated individual Use of Force Policies that meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the updated Department-wide policy, according to DHS.

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