Senate GOP police bill mirrors Trump order on chokeholds

Senate Republicans plan to unveil police reform legislation Wednesday that puts restrictions on chokeholds but does not ban the tactic outright, mirroring an executive order signed by President Trump.

GOP senators revealed certain aspects of their bill after a lunch meeting Tuesday, shortly after Trump signed an order that says state and local law enforcement agencies would need to certify that their policies prohibit the use of chokeholds, except in situations where use of deadly force is permitted by law, in order to receive federal grants to police departments.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is spearheading the GOP’s efforts on police reform, said the forthcoming legislation is similar to Trump’s order.

When asked if the bill would ban chokeholds, Scott said the measure is meant to “find a way to target those departments that have not yet banned the chokeholds by taking the money away. We believe that it gets you to the same outcome.

“The way the bill is designed, it eliminates the possibility for those departments to receive the grants.”

Scott said that the grants that would be impacted are COPS grants and Byrne grants, which both provide federal funds to law enforcement.

Earlier on Tuesday, some Senate Republicans who are working with Scott on the legislation said the GOP measure would get rid of chokeholds.

“It eliminates chokeholds, it brings in a duty to intervene if there’s excessive force and it certainly provides more cameras for police officers,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.), detailing some of the reforms in the Justice Act.

Other Senate Republicans working on the legislation said additional details will be unveiled Wednesday.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is part of the working group led by Scott, the only African American Republican senator, said the bill will get to “the same ends” as Trump’s order.

“I think we get to same ends but I’m going to wait until we release the bill,” she said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), another member of the working group, said language addressing federal grants to police departments will be part of their legislation, but he said the language on chokeholds was up for interpretation.

Whether the proposed reform can be considered an outright ban depends on “how you interpret that,” he said.

Lankford indicated the legislation won’t attempt to enforce penalties on any officer who uses a chokehold in a life-or-death situation.

“If there’s a struggle, as the president was trying to address today, if there’s a struggle and someone is trying to wrestle someone … this is not like a wrestling match where you’ve got an umpire there, sitting there, a referee trying to say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’ all of a sudden. People are struggling for their life. That’s a different issue always, and will be. You can’t go and enforce that on somebody when they’re trying to be able to struggle for their life,” he said.

Lankford said the more relevant question for policymakers is how to address police department training on chokeholds.

Capito said there’s been some talk with Senate Democrats to secure bipartisan support for the legislation but it hasn’t gotten very far.

“I don’t think they’ve really engaged with us too much,” she said.

House Democrats last week unveiled sweeping police reform legislation that included a provision to impose a federal ban on chokeholds.

Jordain Carney contributed. Updated at 4:52 p.m.

Tags Chokeholds Donald Trump James Lankford John Barrasso legislation police reform Shelley Moore Capito Tim Scott
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