Police reform advocates in Boston are calling for change on several concrete points, including banning the use of chokeholds. WGBH News' Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Northeastern University law professor and WGBH News legal analyst Daniel Medwed about his thoughts on police chokeholds. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: Can you, first of all, describe exactly what is a chokehold in the definition that police use? Does it refer to a specific type of restraint or more of a general concept?

Daniel Medwed: Well, the term is actually quite complicated and historically quite loaded. Some people use it as a term of art to refer to a very specific technique in which force is applied directly to the windpipe or, for male suspects, the Adam's apple area, and therefore does not refer to other tactics, such as so-called sleeper holds or carotid neck restraints that involve touching the sides of the neck in an effort to reduce blood flow and ideally, from the perspective of the officer, induce unconsciousness. Other people define chokeholds much more broadly. For what it's worth, the New York Police Department has banned chokeholds for more than 20 years and defines them as "any pressure to the throat or windpipe," which basically reduces the intake of air. Now this prohibition in New York hasn't stopped chokeholds entirely from happening — recall, of course, the Eric Garner case from 2014 — but it's an important start.

Mathieu: Okay, that said, tell us what's happening in Boston here. Our police department does not ban chokeholds like New York, right?

Medwed: Not in a sufficiently explicit and comprehensive way. So on the one hand, to be fair, the BPD doesn't train officers in this technique, doesn't encourage or sanction the use of chokeholds. Also, the department's use of force manual shows a strong preference for deescalation techniques and what are called "less lethal tactics" in engaging with civilians.

But on the other hand, the Boston Police Department policies make clear that officers may use reasonable force when interacting with civilians — trying to subdue civilians — and it's a fact and circumstances approach; there's no specific roadmap for how you're supposed to exercise reasonable force. Now, the BPD does caution officers to refrain from using neck restraints when they're confronting a suspect who's swallowing drugs. That's actually quite a common occurrence in the drug arena where a suspect will ingest the controlled substance to avoid getting apprehended with the drugs on hand. That's obviously quite dangerous and it's a good admonition from the police department, but I think the BPD could go much further and ban chokeholds entirely.

Mathieu: Have there been incidents involving chokeholds recently here in Boston?

Medwed: Well, two of them come to mind. So first, back in 2012, the BPD fired an officer, David Williams, after an incident three years before where he used a chokehold to effectuate a disorderly conduct arrest in the North End. Notably, an arbitrator later overturned the BPD's decision to fire him, finding that Williams had not used an unreasonable amount of force.

The second incident occurred in 2015 when a cell phone video caught an officer with his hands wrapped around the neck for about 10 seconds of an 18-year-old kid in Roslindale. The BPD at the time was quite defensive about this incident. If I recall, the commissioner, William Evans, sort of downplayed it, saying there was no real choking going on. And a BPD spokesperson said that while chokeholds are not part of protocol, officers may use reasonable force and our policies don't dictate how to do it.

Mathieu: We should note that Daniel was pretty far ahead on making this call long before it was as popular as it is now. And you wrote a column two [or] three years ago for wghnews.org. What do you think should be done now, then?

Medwed: Let's just unequivocally ban chokeholds, defined broadly to include all type of neck restraint. Let's follow the Minneapolis City Council's lead from last week. The New York State Assembly just yesterday banned chokeholds statewide with the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. It's more than symbolic. It would make it easier to discipline officers who use them, and it would certainly give many officers pause. Retired SJC Justice Geraldine Hines put it beautifully back in 2017 when she said, to paraphrase, it is because chokeholds are unpredictably lethal that we deserve a bright line rule. So let's establish a bright line rule: unequivocally and comprehensively ban neck restraints.