Carney signs legislation banning use of chokeholds by law enforcement

WILMINGTON — Gov. John Carney today signed House Bill 350, which bans the use of chokeholds by all law enforcement agencies in Delaware.

Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, and Sen. Elizabeth Lockman, D-Wilmington, are the prime sponsors of the legislation. The legislation is part of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus’ “Justice for All” agenda, which was introduced following the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We have heard the voices calling for change, and we are focused on taking meaningful action in Delaware,” said Gov. Carney. “This legislation is an important part of a broader effort to improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color following the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“I want to thank members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus for their leadership on issues around racial justice and law enforcement. Our work together will continue.”

House Bill 350 creates the crime of aggravated strangulation as a Class D felony. Under the legislation, a chokehold is only justifiable when a law enforcement officer reasonably believes deadly force is necessary to protect the life of a civilian or an officer.

In June, Gov. Carney banned the use of chokeholds at state of Delaware law enforcement agencies by executive order. Gov. Carney’s Executive Order No. 41 also requires additional de-escalation and implicit bias training; prohibits law enforcement from sharing mugshots of minors; increases the availability of crisis intervention services for officers; and requires transparency around use-of-force protocols.

“Aggravated strangulation is a crime when it causes unjustified physical harm or death,” Rep. Chukwuocha said. “This new law is extremely needed given the pulse of our state and nation; it recognizes and embraces this very pivotal moment in our history to address systemic failures.

“Delaware will hold law enforcement officers to the high standard in which they have been trained in police departments throughout our state. This is an effort to save lives and prevent potentially lethal interactions with law enforcement, thus providing greater security to our communities. House Bill 350 lays the foundation for broader reforms to advance systemic change, ensuring that all Delawareans are protected lawfully,” he added.

Sen. Lockman was pleased the legislation was signed by Gov. Carney.

“We hear far too often about ‘a few bad apples’ in our police agencies. And, far too often, we have seen those ‘few bad apples’ go unpunished, even when their actions result in the deaths of the very citizens they are sworn to protect,” said Sen. Lockman. “Every time that happens, we are sowing the seeds of fear, hatred and mistrust.

“Communities of color and our allies, both here in Delaware and across the country, took to the streets after George Floyd’s death, specifically to demand an end to those injustices. This legislation makes it clear that these chokeholds are illegal and we will hold the officers who use them accountable in a court of law.”