This bill — the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2018 — would amend the U.S. Code to forbid the use of chokeholds by police. Currently there is no federal law regarding the use of chokeholds by police, and such decisions are made by law enforcement agencies.
What is House Bill H.R. 7118?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 7118
In-Depth: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced this bill in direct response to Eric Garner’s death to make the use of police chokeholds illegal under federal law. Announcing this bill’s introduction in front of NYPD’s Manhattan headquarters along with representatives from the National Action Network and Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, Rep. Jeffries said called the epidemic of police violence in America “undeniable”:
“[Eric Garner’s] tragic death and the stunning miscarriage of justice that resulted from the failure to indict his killer sparked a national outcry. The chokehold is a poster child for violent police tactics. 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.”
In an interview with AM New York, Rep. Jeffries added that while “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,” he believes that “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."
Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Regional Director at The National Action Network, argues that this bill would make it easier for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to press charges in chokehold cases, because it would give the DOJ “clear authority based on this legislation to say that you violated someone’s civil rights by denying them the right to breathe.” This, she contends, would be a “quantum leap forward” in establishing “accountability for all.”
The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) opposed this bill when it was introduced in the 114th Congress, arguing that it endangers police officers:
“The Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act would make the use of police chokeholds illegal under federal law. NAPO opposes this legislation, as the blanket prohibition does not take into account situations where an officer would be justified in using force, even deadly force, to protect himself or herself from death or bodily harm, to protect a third party, or to stop a crime.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says that the issue of chokeholds should be handled by the NYPD, which has its own chokehold ban, and police departments more broadly, and adds that the use of chokeholds may be an “acceptable option” if an officer needs to protect themself:
“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. But I think to act legislatively on top of police department regulations is a mistake."
This bill has 15 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Of Note: Eric Garner, an unarmed father of six, died in July 2014 after being placed in an apparent chokehold on July 17 when police tried to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, indicating the chokehold used by Officer Pantaleo as the cause. However, when this case went to court, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo. The Eric Garner case sparked a national outcry, and “I can’t breathe” — the phrase Garner repeated 11 times — became a rallying cry for police reform.
In 2007, a Justice Department survey found that 46 percent of police departments serving more than one million people allowed some sort of hold or neck restraint.
- Sponsoring Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Press Release (Previous Congress)
- National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) Letter (Opposed)
- The Atlantic (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / guruXOOX)
Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2018
To amend section 242 of title 18, United States Code, to forbid the use of chokeholds by persons subject to that provision's prohibitions, and for other purposes.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedNovember 6th, 2018
- house Committees