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Sumter, Reynolds-Jackson, Wimberly & Holley Bill to Designate Police Use of ‘Chokeholds’ as ‘Use of Deadly Force” Clears Assembly

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the use of chokeholds during the police apprehension of an individual has come under wide criticism in many states across the nation.

The full Assembly approved several measures aimed at social justice reform in New Jersey. Among the bills, a measure (A-4263) that would clarify that any law enforcement officer who knowingly chokes another person is engaging in use of deadly force. It passed the full Assembly 72-1-5.

Assembly members Shavonda Sumter, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Benjie Wimberly and Jamel Holley are prime sponsors of the legislation.

“The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis through a lethal knee involved chokehold and deaths of men and women in law enforcement custody has caused states to reassess policies surrounding use of police force,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “New Jersey law enforcement does not train for the use of chokeholds in the police academy. However, it is a tactical move that may be used to secure an individual. With this legislation, we define these holds in New Jersey as use of deadly force.”

“With this legislation, New Jersey takes a stand against the use of excessive police force,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “We have seen what can happen countless times with countless lives lost over the years. This is the step we must take to ensure it does not happen here in New Jersey.”

The legislation amends N.J.S.2C:3-11 to clarify that the use of a chokehold by a law enforcement officer constitutes deadly force.

“The deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd have placed a spotlight on police use of force as well as the many others who have lost their lives as a result of these practices,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The designation of a chokehold as a deadly force is necessary to discourage the use of choking as a way to subdue a person. Our law enforcement is trained in many other ways to deescalate a situation without using this one.”

“We’re calling for change in the way African Americans and others are treated in this country during police interactions,” said Holley (D-Union). “Far too many instances have occurred and far too many lives have been lost due to the misuse of excessive force in policing. There is a problem with the use of the chokehold as a tactic that must be addressed.”

Under the bill, a law enforcement officer uses deadly force if he knowingly places pressure on the throat, windpipe, or carotid artery of another person, thereby hindering or preventing the ability to breath, or interfering with the flow of blood from the heart to the brain.

Current law provides that use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer is only justified if necessary to protect the officer or another person from death or serious bodily injury, to arrest or prevent the escape of a violent criminal, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime.  The bill provides that a law enforcement officer is not justified in choking another person unless confronted with one of these dangerous situations.

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