Regulating Police Chokeholds

Trevor George Gardener & Esam Al-Shareffi |

This Article presents findings from an analysis of police chokehold policies enacted at the federal, state, and municipal levels of government. In addition to identifying the jurisdictions that restricted police chokeholds in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, the Article conveys (via analysis of an original dataset) the considerable variance in the quality of police chokehold regulation. While many jurisdictions regulate the police chokehold, the strength of such regulations should not be taken for granted. Police chokehold policies vary by the type of chokehold barred (“air choke” and/or carotid choke), the degree of the chokehold restriction, an officer’s “duty to intervene” when observing improper police application of the chokehold, and the type of sanction attached to a chokehold policy violation (criminal and/or administrative). Following the presentation of chokehold policy variance, the authors recommend an absolute bar of both air chokes and carotid chokes. However, in contemplating such a policy, policymakers should consider whether an officer authorized to use deadly force but barred from applying the air or carotid choke will be inclined to use his firearm as a force alternative.

Cite as: Trevor George Gardner & Esam Al-Shareffi, Regulating Police Chokeholds, 112 J. Crim. L. & Criminology Online 111 (2022).