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Delaware lawmakers release bill banning police chokeholds

June 23, 2020 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A proposal by Democratic lawmakers in Delaware to ban police from using chokeholds and kneeholds unless deadly force is necessary cleared a legislative hurdle Monday.

A House committee voted unanimously to release the bill, the Delaware State News reported. The ban is part of a set of reforms Democrats have proposed to address what they believe is systemic racism in Delaware’s criminal justice system.

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The proposals come as protests over police brutality have gripped the nation for weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, laying bare tensions between police and the communities they serve. Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

The newspaper reported HB 350 criminalizes the use of “aggravated strangulation” by law enforcement. Officers could use chokeholds or kneeholds only if they believe it is necessary to protect the life of a civilian or fellow officer.

Aggravated strangulation would be a Class D felony, and aggravated strangulation resulting in death or serious injury would be a Class C felony.

Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha sponsored the bill. The Democrat from Wilmington said training for officers in the state does not include chokeholds and, therefore, a law is needed to punish those who use them.

“There isn’t a law enforcement agency in our state that trains officers to utilize a chokehold. They should not be using it,” Chukwuocha “So all we are saying is if an officer chooses to do so, he or she will be punished under our law. That’s what we’re saying. If they want to violate their own training, then they’re going to be punished for it.”