CITY HALL — A prominent alderman and former Chicago Police officer proposed a city ban on chokeholds Monday for all officers and security guards.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) is lead sponsor of a proposed ordinance banning chokeholds, which he submitted Monday as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee.
Chokeholds have become a hot-button issue since such a hold resulted in the death of Eric Garner in New York City. A grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who executed that chokehold has led to recent protests across the nation.
"It is our intention to forbid the use of chokeholds by peace officers and security personnel in order to avoid a similar tragic death in Chicago," Burke said. "We must take every step to safeguard the health and well-being of a suspect while effecting an arrest or overcoming resistance."
The ban would apply to all peace officers within the city limits, including Chicago Police, deputy sheriffs, U.S. marshals and private security guards.
The Police Department immediately endorsed the measure.
"This ordinance would reinforce CPD’s existing directives and practices," said department spokesman Martin Maloney. "Chokeholds are not an approved technique for our officers, we already train officers not to use chokeholds and CPD’s directives expressly state that officers will position anyone in a manner that allows free breathing."
The ordinance states: "No peace officer, private security contractor or private security personnel shall apply a chokehold in the performance of his or her duties, unless faced with a situation in which the use of deadly force is justified under applicable law. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air."
While Burke noted Chicago police do not use the term "chokehold," the ordinance says police should avoid sitting on a suspect's chest and should allow a suspect free breathing and medical treatment.
Burke said that, as a police recruit in 1965, "We were trained how to choke people ... into submission until they lost consciousness." He said they were taught to use a nightstick in that, adding, "I think we've come a long way in law enforcement" since then.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), a co-sponsor, echoed that, saying that times had changed.
"No chokes," Burke said, adding that he was out to "make Chicago a no-choke city." According to Burke, Chicago would be the first major city to make such holds illegal.
In New York, chokeholds are banned under police department policy. Efforts to make such holds illegal have been opposed by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who said officers might need to use chokeholds to save themselves in an attack.
In Chicago, Aldermen Will Burns (4th) and Michelle Harris (8th) also signed on.
The proposed ordinance was held in committee for consideration and was not expected to be ready to be voted on in Wednesday's City Council meeting, although Burke said in the meantime he would poll committee members to see if they wanted to move on it immediately or wait until January.
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