Life is about choices. Some we regret, some were proud of. Some will haunt us forever.
— Graham Brown
On Monday night, the Columbia City Council discussed a proposal, sponsored by Councilperson Ian Thomas, suggesting that the use of chokeholds by the Columbia Police Department be banned. No vote was taken.
Although no person in Columbia has died from police use of a chokehold, there are many reasons why the use of chokeholds by police officers — and similar kinds of restraint — should be banned in every city in America. Here are just a few.
There are too many other methods police have at their disposal to restrain a suspect other than a chokehold. How about de-escalating conversation for one option?
Moreover, police officers are trained in various forms of martial/combat art. To resort to a chokehold is to be led by fear or an insatiable feeling of power. In both cases it demonstrates that the police officer is not professional and well-trained.
We have witnessed police officers too often employ the hammer of chokeholds, and citizens are treated like nails. Remember Eric Garner and George Floyd, as well as others, were the victims of such methods. We do not need someone to die in Columbia to know that chokeholds are dangerous and oppose the common good.
Chokeholds are immoral and unethical. The use of them reduces the suspect from the level of human being to that of sub-human. In most cosmopolitan centers, if I use a chokehold on a pet, in most cases a dog, I would be arrested and either jailed or heavily fined. Public disdain would follow me at every turn. Yet a police officer can use the same method on another human being and not be charged or arrested, and receive acclaim for being “a good cop.” Something here is fundamentally wrong. A human person should receive at least as much moral consideration and respect as a nonhuman being.
The authorization of the use of chokeholds moves our society closer and closer to barbarism. Think of this: A chokehold is a mini and partial lynching. It cuts off the flow of oxygen and, if maintained, leads to death. Lynching in America has been outlawed for being both cruel and unusual. Is not the same principle applicable to chokeholds? Of course, it is. Add to that the clear historical record of both chokeholds and lynching used against people of color, particularly Black people; chokeholds are indisputably brutal and immersed in racism. Our choice to continue to allow the employment of chokeholds moves our community and the society toward barbarism.
So that I may be clearly understood, I understand how police officers face threat daily. I realize that all police officers are not blood-thirsty racists looking to exercise domination and humiliation on people they swore to protect and serve.
The problem of policing in America is systemic, not personal. And yet abuse and brutality by chokehold has occurred far too often. It seems we should prevent another incident of death by chokehold from happening by simply eliminating chokeholds. We should choose to stop potential death by chokehold before it becomes an actuality.