Republican Senator 'Absolutely' Supports National Ban On Police Chokeholds

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said outlawing the sometimes-deadly restraint should have been done "a long time ago."

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Sunday that he “absolutely” supports a national ban on police chokeholds, the type of restraint used by an officer in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.

“That is one of the things that we should have engaged in a long time ago,” Lankford said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

He noted that at least eight police departments across the country have prohibited the maneuver and more are considering following suit in the wake of the massive anti-racism protests sparked by Floyd’s death.

“Chokehold” has been used broadly to refer to any type of neck hold. Police typically use the term when describing a specific restraint that restricts breathing by applying pressure to the windpipe, according to CNN.

Bystander video showed three officers pinning Floyd to the ground, including one who knelt on his neck, as he stated repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe. An autopsy ruled Floyd’s death a homicide caused by “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Lankford on Sunday said it’s been “pretty clear” that it isn’t necessary for police to use chokeholds when restraining suspects.

“Some departments just didn’t train for chokeholds and told their officers they can only do what they’ve been trained for,” he said. “There’s been a longstanding principle out there that that is not needed for that situation.”

Congressional Democrats have included a chokehold ban in their proposed legislation overhauling law enforcement practices in order to reduce police brutality. 

President Donald Trump on Thursday signaled support for a national ban on the practice, telling Fox News that “the concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent” but that the maneuver “should be ended.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not said what police reform measures his caucus would be willing to support. But Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is leading GOP efforts on police reform, said Sunday that chokeholds are “a policy whose time has come and gone.”

“We try to tackle that on the local level, the House policy tackles that on the state level, I think the president’s looking at a national perspective on that from an executive order,” Scott told NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“All three levers want to tackle the issue of chokeholds and that’s part of that entire conversation around the deescalation of force,” he added.

Either way, civil rights activists say such a ban would likely have little impact on police violence. Cities that outlawed chokeholds long before the Floyd protests continue to have police brutality incidents involving chokeholds.

“The chokehold ban, in essence, is useless,” Hawk Newsome, chair of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, told Mother Jones. “Unless you’re tacking on a felony or a murder charge, or criminal liability to these things, and to this bill, then it’s a toothless guard dog.”