The Center for Justice Research (CJR) at Texas Southern University supports innovative, data-driven solutions for the creation of an equitable criminal justice system. CJR is the premier criminal justice research center located on the campus of a historically Black college or university. Researchers at CJR offer an important voice at this crucial time in U.S. policing. A Police Reform Action Brief released today focuses on the chokehold crisis. This is the first in a series of action briefs on police reform that will assist in the re-imagination of policing.
Key Observation: National standards are necessary to ensure protection against excessive use of force, including chokeholds. However, states and local jurisdictions cannot wait on Congress to implement reforms that protect their citizens and hold police accountable. Police reform will require support at all levels of government.
The first in the series, Reimagination of Policing Action Brief: Banning Chokeholds, highlights the extensive history of police officer use of chokeholds and similar tactics that often result in unconsciousness, and even death. The May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has shaken the nation’s conscience. Americans are demanding change. The brief’s authors, the Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University, provides support for a zero-tolerance approach to police chokeholds. A chokehold ban will help move this country further toward the elimination of racially-motivated police violence and the longstanding tensions/distrust between minority communities and the police.
George Floyd’s murder was egregious but not unique. Many police agencies hold the position that they don’t train officers to use chokeholds, but they are continuously used by officers to regain compliance. In fact, when a New York City police officer applied a chokehold that ultimately killed Eric Garner in 2014, they had already been banned some 21 years earlier. In Minneapolis, it is estimated that between 2015 and 2020, some form of a neck restraint was administered 237 times by police officers, with almost 20% of them resulting in unconsciousness.
The Justice Act, put forth by Senator Tim Scott, seeks to discourage chokeholds by way of withholding federal funds to those departments that continue their use or refuse to provide accurate data on their department’s use. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, passed by the U.S. House, sets federal standards that prohibit the use of deadly force –including chokeholds — by federal officers except as a last resort to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury following de-escalation techniques. If passed, officers who use chokeholds will be subject to prosecution under federal statute.
The brief concludes with comprehensive recommendations for key stakeholders, at all levels, to consider in the advancement of police reform in their respective jurisdictions.