Gov. Carney signs legislation banning the use of chokeholds by all law enforcement agencies in Delaware

HB 350 is part of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus’ ‘Justice for All’ Agenda

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Governor John Carney on August 13th signed House Bill 350, which bans the use of chokeholds by all law enforcement agencies in Delaware.

Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Senator Elizabeth Lockman are the prime sponsors of the legislation. The legislation is part of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus’ ‘Justice for All’ agenda, which was introduced following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Other participants at the virtual signing ceremony in addition to State Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha (Primary Sponsor) and State Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman (Additional Sponsor with Sen. Brown and Reps. Bolden, Cooke, Dorsey Walker, K. Johnson and Minor Brown) were the Attorney General Kathy Jennings and Secretary Nathaniel McQueen, Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Sen. Ennis, Hansen, McBride, McDowell, Paradee, Poore, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Walsh, Cloutier
Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Bentz, Brady, Bush, Carson, Griffith, Heffernan, Jaques, Q. Johnson, Kowalko, Longhurst, Lynn, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Schwartzkopf, Seigfried, Viola, K. Williams.

“We have heard the voices calling for change and we are focused on taking meaningful action in Delaware,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation is an important part of a broader effort to improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color following the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I want to thank members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus for their leadership on issues around racial justice and law enforcement. Our work together will continue.”

House Bill 350 creates the crime of Aggravated Strangulation as a Class D felony. Under the legislation, a chokehold is only justifiable when a law enforcement officer reasonably believes deadly force is necessary to protect the life of a civilian or an officer.

In June, Governor Carney banned the use of chokeholds at State of Delaware law enforcement agencies by executive order. Governor Carney’s Executive Order #41 also requires additional de-escalation and implicit bias training; prohibits law enforcement from sharing mugshots of minors; increases the availability of crisis intervention services for officers; and requires transparency around use-of-force protocols.

“Aggravated strangulation is a crime when it causes unjustified physical harm or death. This new law is extremely needed given the pulse of our state and nation; it recognizes and embraces this very pivotal moment in our history to address systemic failures. Delaware will hold law-enforcement officers to the high standard in which they have been trained in police departments throughout our state,” said Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha. “This is an effort to save lives, and prevent potentially lethal interactions with law enforcement, thus providing greater security to our communities. House Bill 350 lays the foundation for broader reforms to advance systemic change; ensuring that ALL Delawareans are protected lawfully.”

“We hear far too often about ‘a few bad apples’ in our police agencies. And, far too often, we have seen those ‘few bad apples’ go unpunished, even when their actions result in the deaths of the very citizens they are sworn to protect,” said Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman. “Every time that happens, we are sowing the seeds of fear, hatred and mistrust. Communities of color and our allies, both here in Delaware and across the country, took to the streets after George Floyd’s death, specifically to demand an end to those injustices. This legislation makes it clear that these chokeholds are illegal and we will hold the officers who use them accountable in a court of law.”

“Nobody should be above the law; but neither can anyone be beneath justice,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “This is a real step forward for accountability in our state—one that codifies good work done by the Governor in his executive order and one that we owe to so many, including the sponsors of this bill and the advocates who have called for this reform and many others. We still have work left to do, but I am heartened by the progress we are making in Delaware and grateful to those who helped make it happen.”

This Act creates the crime of Aggravated Strangulation. A person is guilty of Aggravated Strangulation if the person is a law-enforcement officer, and while acting within the person’s official capacity as a law-enforcement officer, knowingly or intentionally uses a chokehold on another person. Under this Act, a chokehold is only justifiable when the person reasonably believes deadly force is warranted in order to protect the life of a civilian or law-enforcement officer. Aggravated Strangulation is a Class D felony unless the law-enforcement officer using a chokehold causes serious physical injury or death to another person thereby elevating the crime to a Class C felony. This Act also makes clear that if a person is charged under this section, such a charge shall not preclude or limit the State or any other prosecuting agency from bringing other criminal charges against the person.

Other participants at the virtual signing ceremony were: State Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha (Primary Sponsor), State Senator Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman (Additional Sponsor with Sen. Brown and Reps. Bolden, Cooke, Dorsey Walker, K. Johnson and Minor Brown) , Attorney General Kathy Jennings and Secretary Nathaniel McQueen, Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Sen. Ennis, Hansen, McBride, McDowell, Paradee, Poore, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Walsh, Cloutier
Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Bentz, Brady, Bush, Carson, Griffith, Heffernan, Jaques, Q. Johnson, Kowalko, Longhurst, Lynn, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Schwartzkopf, Seigfried, Viola, K. Williams.