The state Legislature is taking steps to ban police officers from using chokeholds or kneeling on someone’s neck as a form of restraint.
The Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that prohibits law enforcement training that teaches using chokeholds as a valid form of restraint. Officers could still use them in a situation where lethal force is allowed.
It also bans law enforcement from restraining someone by kneeling on their neck.
The proposal comes after weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
“I know a lot of people when that video came out with Mr. Floyd, their eyes were opened,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. “My eyes as a black woman living in this state have been open for years.”
Hollins is the only black lawmaker in the Utah Legislature.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, called the proposal “low-hanging fruit” and called for the bill to go further. He said he’s concerned it only bans chokehold training, not the practice itself.
“There's a world of difference, though, between a chokehold done by an untrained, unqualified person and a carotid restraint done by someone who is specifically and expertly trained in its application,” Thatcher said.
Hollins pushed back on Thatcher’s “low-hanging fruit” comment.
“it is not low-hanging fruit,” she said. “It is fruit that is going to make a difference in our community. And it's going to make them feel safe enough that they know if they call the police, this practice will not be implemented. Does it go far enough? Absolutely not. And we're continuing to have this conversation.”
The bill passed the committee unanimously and is set to be considered during a special session later this week.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson