Police Should Ban Chokeholds, Says GOP Senator

June 15, 2020 Updated: June 15, 2020

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said on June 14 that he is in favor of banning the police use of chokeholds, as calls for police reform grow amid protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Lankford expressed his support for passing a national ban on the controversial immobilization technique by law enforcement as part of police reform legislation being considered by Congress in two separate interviews Sunday.

“I do believe chokeholds should be banned,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” He noted that the restraint technique has already been banned, in practice, in most departments, because police are not trained to use chokeholds, and officers are told not to use what they are not trained for.

Lankford separately told ABC’s “This Week” that the United States should “absolutely” implement a national ban on chokeholds.

“Absolutely we should have that,” he said. “That is one of the things that we should have engaged in a long time ago.”

“This has been pretty clear. There has been a longstanding principle out there that is not needed for that situation,” he added.

Lankford made reference to the National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force document (pdf) published in October 2017, which concluded that the “extremely dangerous” maneuver may only be used when deadly force is authorized.

It defines a chokehold as a tactic that “restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation … that can easily result in serious bodily injury or death.”

In the United States, officers may only use deadly force when necessary, and as a last resort.

“So I think that’s not an issue for us,” Lankford added.

It comes amid a wave of reform sparked by the May 25 police-custody death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Calls for police reform have grown amid protests over the 46-year-old’s death in Minneapolis.

By Friday, at least 20 U.S. cities and municipalities had either banned the tactic in policing, or started to impose chokehold bans, CNN reported.

Lankford is a key sponsor of a GOP-backed police reform bill that is expected to be unveiled by Republicans on Wednesday. It is not yet clear if a national ban on chokeholds by police will appear in the legislation.

A ban on the restraint technique nationwide is a key component of legislation unveiled by Democrats last week, that aims to increase transparency and accountability in law enforcement nationwide.

In an interview with Fox News last week, President Donald Trump appeared to indicate that he supports a ban on chokeholds by police.

“I don’t like chokeholds,” the president said, noting that at times, the maneuver is used during a one-on-one fight for a person’s life. “That does happen. So you have to be careful … It would be, I think, a very good thing that generally speaking, it be should be ended.”

Attorney General William Barr meanwhile said last week that he supports a prohibition on the use of chokeholds by police unless officers are confronted with “potentially lethal force.”