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Delaware legislature passes chokehold bill

Joe Irizarry
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers passed a bill banning most uses of chokeholds by law enforcement in Delaware Thursday.

Legislation banning law enforcement use of chokeholds makes it a crime for police officers to use one on a suspect unless it’s needed to protect another person.



The bill’s main sponsor, State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D-Wilmington), says legislation like this springs from shared experiences by the Black Caucus with law enforcement.


“We share repeatedly about how many times we have been pulled over by police officers. And this is saying that Rep. [Franklin] Cooke (D-New Castle), who himself is a retired police officer, myself as a former city councilman being pulled over repeatedly, countless times. You’re being pulled over and harassed merely because you’re Black.”


State Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden) says during a town hall he attended recently, Camden’s police chief Mark Whitney, told participants about the extent of training officers have with choke-holds.

“Choke-holds have not been taught, have not been utilized, have not been enforced in regards to training for over 20 plus years. With that being the case I rise in 100 percent support of this bill in that if someone has not been trained to use this deadly force, we absolutely 100 percent should hold them accountable if they use this grotesque action in the line of duty.”

After it’s passage Chukwuochadelivered an emotional celebration.

“It seems a simple thing that we can do, but again, this is about saving lives. And as a black man it’s important to say that we do matter.”

Hours later the bill passed the state Senate 16-5 after a lengthy debate over the bills legal language and impact on police.


Those who voted against were Republicans Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson, Brian Pettyjohn, Bryant Richardson and David Wilson. Most brought up concerns that Delaware doesn't teach the choke-hold in police training anyways, and the bill would uneccesarily restrict officers abilities during an arrest.


It now heads to Gov. John Carney’s desk.



Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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