​To fight ‘epidemic’ of police violence, new bill would ban chokeholds at federal level

Reuters / Carlo Allegri
A US Congressman from New York has announced new legislation that would ban police officers across the country from using chokeholds on suspects – an effort that he said is aimed at stopping an “epidemic” of police violence.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring legislation called the “Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act,” is scheduled to introduce the bill on Tuesday. If passed, the bill would make the use of a chokehold a civil rights violation, thus enabling the Department of Justice to more easily charge offending police officers with a crime.

Civil rights charges are particularly difficult for the federal government to bring against law enforcement, since the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a suspect’s civil rights were willfully violated in order to land a conviction.

“The chokehold is a poster child for violent police tactics,” he said, according to the Brooklyn Reader. “It is an unreasonable measure. It is an unnecessary measure. It is an uncivilized measure. The Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act will make it an unlawful measure.”

The bill currently has 20 co-sponsors, though it’s unclear if it has attracted any bipartisan support. It defines a chokehold as “the application of any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce the intake of air.”

Jeffries’ proposal comes after the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner last year, which occurred after a New York Police Department officer placed him in a chokehold during an attempted arrest. Garner was targeted for selling loose cigarettes and his death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. However, a grand jury declined to indict the NYPD officer on criminal charges, sparking nationwide protests.

Speaking outside of the NYPD’s Manhattan headquarters in Manhattan with the mother of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr, Jeffries said the bill is intended to target “an epidemic and crisis of police violence that threatens to undermine the confidence of many in the criminal justice system.”

READ MORE: NY Judge rejects request to release Eric Garner grand jury records

“Police violence in Cleveland, police violence in North Charleston, police violence in Baltimore, and police violence right here in New York,” he said, as quoted by The Huffington Post. “These are just a few of the recent examples that happened to be caught on videotape, but that clearly are indicative of a broader problem that we have to address.”

The congressman added that the bill will be proposed in honor of Garner’s memory.

“His tragic death and the stunning miscarriage of justice that resulted from the failure to indict his killer sparked a national outcry,” said Jeffries, according to the Brooklyn Reader. “It demands a national response.”