Kinsey, Kim and Dawkins call for ban on chokeholds following Chauvin conviction

HARRISBURG, April 21 -- Following the unanimous guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., today announced legislation that he has introduced that seeks to outlaw the use of the standard chokehold in making an arrest, including the same chokehold used to kill George Floyd.

House Bill 870, a bill Kinsey co-introduced with state Reps. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, and Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., would also ban police using any action that inhibits breath or the flow of blood to the brain due to physical position.

“While we collectively revel in this moment that justice was served for Mr. Floyd, we must recognize that this is but a small victory in the grand scope of protecting communities of color from police violence and meaningfully reforming our system,” Kinsey said. “Yesterday, a jury unanimously decided that chokeholds are acts of murder, and this decision should compel us to examine policies of our own law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth.”

Kim echoed Kinsey’s sentiments that while the verdict is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough.

“This guilty verdict is long-awaited justice for many,” Kim said. “But it is certainly not enough. These are the first steps toward true justice for all. We must act now and work to ban archaic practices that put citizens’ lives at risk. Chokeholds should be a uniformly forbidden practice across all law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth.”

Dawkins, agreeing with his colleagues, also highlighted the brutality of neck restraints and expressed sadness in Floyd’s murder being recorded to finally spark widespread outrage.

“Our legislation provides a clear policy for police forces across the state on the use of restraint, making it absolutely clear that there is no safe way to use a neck restraint when apprehending a suspect. No matter what they might believe, the use of it is against the law,” said Dawkins, chairman of the House Philadelphia Delegation. “It gives me great pain to know that George Floyd died at the hands of police and died in this way, and that it had to be recorded for people to finally wake up the reality of police brutality across our nation.”

Kinsey, along with Kim and Dawkins, pointed to the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation process introduced in 2001 by the Chief of Police Association -- the accrediting body for law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania -- to create standard policing practices among accredited agencies.

Chokeholds are forbidden practices for accredited departments, according to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. However, the trio of legislators pointed out that only 127 of the more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth are accredited.

“The overwhelming lack of uniform accreditation reveals that too many of our law enforcement agencies ultimately lack oversight, and therefore may continue to utilize practices prohibited by the Chief of Police Association. Knowingly allowing this issue to go unaddressed is a slap in the face to those demanding police accountability,” Kinsey said. “My bill provides an opportunity to ensure that police are held accountable for their actions so that we don’t have another George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ricky Bellevue or other unarmed Black and Brown lives claimed by these malicious chokeholds.”