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Iowa legislature unanimously passes police reform bill, banning most police chokeholds

Iowa legislature unanimously passes police reform bill, banning most police chokeholds
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Both chambers of the Iowa Legislature on Thursday unanimously passed a police reform bill to ban chokeholds and address officer misconduct.

The bill will now be sent to the desk of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has expressed support for the push, The Des Moines Register reported.

"These problems didn’t arise overnight and they won’t be fixed in a day. We are just getting started, but our work together shows Iowa is willing to have the tough conversations and to look past our differences to find common ground and a brighter future for all Iowans," Reynolds said in a statement.

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Leaders in both the state House and Senate introduced companions bills simultaneously and the measures passed within hours.

House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl (R) said it was the fastest he had seen a bill move through the chambers in his 14 years in the office.

"Is this a solution to every problem we have, to every injustice? No. But it’s a damn good start,” he said. “And we can move forward from here.”

The bipartisan bill aims to meet three demands raised by Democratic lawmakers following weeks of protests against racial injustice and police brutality stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The legislation would ban most chokeholds by police, allow the Iowa attorney general to investigate deaths caused by an officer and prevent an officer from being hired in the state if they have previously been convicted of a felony, fired for misconduct or quit to avoid being fired for misconduct.

"Chokehold" is defined by lawmakers as "the intentional and prolonged application of force to the throat or windpipe that prevents or hinders breathing or reduces the intake of air."

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The only two exceptions to the ban on chokeholds are: if a person has used or threatened to use deadly force in committing a felony or if an officer "reasonably believes the person would use deadly force" unless immediately apprehended.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on Memorial Day shortly after a white officer was seen pressing a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. That officer and his colleagues at the scene have seen been fired and criminally charged.

According to the Register, the Iowa law also requires annual training for law enforcement officers on implicit bias and de-escalation techniques.

Shortly after the bill passed on the House floor, Iowa’s five black lawmakers stood together with fists in the air.

“I never would have dreamed that I could stand on the floor of the Iowa Legislature and support a bill that would help all of this indignity to black Americans stop," said Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines (D). "But here I am. And here it is.”

Protesters in the gallery also stood silently with raised fists as votes were being cast. Cheers broke out as each chamber passed the legislation.