Rep. Hakeem Jeffries will introduce a bill Tuesday that would make chokeholds illegal under the federal civil rights law, almost a year after Eric Garner was killed during a police interaction on Staten Island.
Jeffries, standing with Garner’s mother Gwen Carr, said the chokehold is an unnecessary and unreasonable police tactic.
Garner was placed in an apparent chokehold on July 17 when police tried to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. On Dec. 3, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo.
“At least this is a step in the right direction,” Carr said, speaking outside of police headquarters in Manhattan. “I’m going to do what I can to get this bill passed. Because police officers — just like other citizens — if there’s a crime, if there’s misconduct, they should arrested and they should be held accountable just like any other citizen. They should enforce the law, but not be above the law.”
The bill, the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act, would make it illegal for officers to apply “any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.” There are 20 original co-sponsors, including Rep. Charles Rangel and Rep. Yvette Clarke.
“We’ve got a long way to go to make sure that we can deal with the excessive use of force crisis that we have in America,” said Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and sits on the House Judiciary Committee. “It seems reasonable to me that one place to start is making unlawful a tactic that police departments across America themselves, from a policy perspective, say should not be deployed.”
Chokeholds have been against police procedure for years, but are not illegal in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the issue of chokeholds should be handled by the NYPD, and that it may be an “acceptable option” if an officer needs to protect themselves.
“When we talk about the chokehold issue more broadly, it’s quite clear in department regulations that chokeholds are not acceptable under any normal circumstance and we are making that very, very clear in the retraining of all our officers,” De Blasio said, speaking at an unrelated news conference Monday. “But I think to act legislatively on top of police department regulations is a mistake.”
In September, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he would not support legislation to make chokeholds illegal in the city. The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The bill would amend a civil rights statute and only affect cases that fall under that section.
(With Emily Ngo)