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New DOJ Standards for Certifying Police Agencies Include Chokehold Ban

A federal prohibition against chokeholds is included in the new “standards for certification” of police agencies announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The ban on chokeholds, “except in situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law,” was originally contained in an executive order  signed by President Trump in June.

Wednesday’s announcement effectively ensures that the ban will be part of the standards used to certify police  agencies around the country.

“The fundamental responsibility of government is to keep its citizens safe and today’s action to certify thousands of law enforcement agencies around the country will further enable us to do just that,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in the statement.

President Trump’s Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities affirms this administration’s commitment to protecting the American people,” Barr continued.

According to Barr, Trump’s executive order will “improve accountability, build trust, and ensure the safety of the public as well as members of law enforcement who risk their lives every day.”

Several jurisdictions—including some of the  nation’s largest agencies, such as police departments in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago—already limit or sharply constrain the use of neck restraints.  Efforts to develop national legislation have so far been unsuccessful.

The President’s Order requires agencies to meet two standards in order to be successfully credentialed:

      • that the agency’s use of force policies prohibit chokeholds, except in situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law; and
      • that the agency’s use of force policies adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local laws.

Over the next 90 days, at least 3,000 law enforcement agencies will be certified by independent credentialing agencies.

The Department’s certification standards encourage an independent assessment of law enforcement policies and procedures, such as:

      • training protocols on use of force and de-escalation.
      •  the scope of an officer’s duty and obligation to intervene in order to prevent excessive force by another officer
      • when and how an officer should provide appropriate medical care
      • officers identifying themselves as law enforcement and giving verbal warning of their intent to use deadly force
      • shooting at or from a moving vehicle.

Several jurisdictions—including some of the  nation’s largest agencies, such as police departments in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago—already limit or sharply constrain the use of neck restraints.  Efforts to develop national legislation have so far been unsuccessful.

But critics are skeptical that such bans will have a significant effect on police behavior.

“If we look at the ban in New York City, it’s kind of like a rule in an employee handbook: ‘Don’t use a chokehold,’” Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and author of the book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, told NPR.

Butler adds that without stronger measures to ensure accountability “we shouldn’t expect those kinds of light bans to work.”