The Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act, a bill sponsored by New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), would make the use of chokeholds by officers on suspects a crime under federal law.
The bill, which 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,” will be introduced in Congress on Tuesday.
At a press conference on Monday, Jeffries was joined by Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old black man who was choked to death on July 17 by New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Garner’s encounter with Pantaleo was captured on video, which revealed that after Pantaleo confronted Garner for allegedly selling untaxed “loose” cigarettes, and put him in a chokehold, Garner said, “I can’t breathe” 11 times before the chokehold took his life. The Staten Island grand jury announced their decision not to indict Pantaleo on Dec. 3.
“The chokehold is a classic example of violent police tactics,” Jeffries said. “It is an unreasonable measure. It is an unnecessary measure. It is an uncivilized measure. This bill will make it an unlawful measure.”
Carr called this bill a “step in the right direction,” and said she was going to do whatever she could to help the bill pass.
“Because police officers are 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,” Carr said. “They should enforce the law, but not be above the law.”
The Huffington Post reported that the United States Dept. of Justice is currently investigating Garner’s death to determine whether Pantaleo violated Garner’s civil rights, and noted that DOJ investigations into alleged police misconduct, “rarely lead to charges being filed.”
According to the Associated Press, Jeffries defined the bill was a way to amend civil rights laws dealing with excessive force by “defining chokeholds as a depravation of rights under the color of law.”
Just announced the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2015 with Ms. Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother pic.twitter.com/X8wu0qn0Qt
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) April 27, 2015
Jeffries said it is clear that the current department police is “not sufficient,” referencing over over 1,000 complaints that have been filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board regarding NYPD chokeholds from 2009 to 2013. The Huffington Post noted, “only nine of those complaints were substantiated by the CCRB, and only one officer was disciplined – by being docked some vacation days.”