STATE BANS ALL CHOKEHOLDS (S 2800) THEN ALLOWS

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By Bob Katzen

BAN ALL CHOKEHOLDS (S 2800)

The Senate 16-23, rejected an amendment that would completely ban police officers from using a chokehold under any circumstances. The amendment would replace an existing section of the bill that was a compromise reached by the working group that helped draft the measure. That compromise section allows chokeholds as long as they are not performed “with the intent of or with the result of causing unconsciousness or death.”
The measure defines chokehold as “the use of a lateral vascular neck restraint, carotid restraint or other action that involves the placement of any part of law enforcement officer’s body on or around a person’s neck in a manner that limits the person’s breathing or blood flow with the intent of or with the result of causing unconsciousness or death.”

“The … bill as it exists now contains a loophole,” said Sen. Jim Welch (D-West Springfield), the sponsor of the amendment. “It would allow police officers to continue to use chokeholds on people if they claim their intent was to do anything other than cut off the individual’s air supply or blood flow and they don’t render the person unconscious or dead. This amendment would truly ban the use of chokeholds by law enforcement, an action necessary to guarantee all members of our community are protected against these dangerous and often deadly tactics.”

Amendment opponents said the amendment goes too far and deviates from the chokehold compromise the working group achieved. The compromise prohibits chokeholds except for ones that are not performed with the intent of or with the result of causing unconsciousness or death.

“This amendment would have created an overbroad definition of chokehold,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), a leading proponent of the bill “In the course of a pitched struggle, it is entirely possible that an officer would have to put their arm around someone’s neck. Let’s stick with the balance [compromise] we got and let’s vote against this amendment.”

(A “Yes” vote is for a complete ban on chokeholds. A “No” vote is against a complete ban.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALLOW CHOKEHOLDS (S 2800)

Senate 3-36, rejected an amendment that would allow the use of a chokehold if the officer reasonably believes that his or her life is “in immediate jeopardy of imminent death or serious bodily injury.”

“Police officers encounter dangerous situations daily,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Dean Tran (R-Leominster). “They should be allowed to use all necessary tools available to protect themselves and when their lives are at risk especially if the perpetrators are bigger and stronger. Not all police officers are 6 feet 2 inches and weigh 200 pounds. Many are smaller. Now when a female officer, who is let’s say 5 feet 2 inches and weighs 115 pounds, goes up against someone who is twice her stature, we want her and all of the officers to have all the necessary tools available to them for self-defense including the use of chokeholds.”

“This amendment would have weakened the ban to a greater extent than necessary to assure officer safety,” said Sen. Brownsberger. “Let’s stick with the balance we got and let’s vote against this amendment.”

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