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Utah lawmakers vote to ban knee-to-neck chokeholds

FILE - In this June 6, 2020, file photo, a protester lies down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during a protest at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Utah lawmakers have taken a first step toward banning police officers from placing their knees on the necks of people being detained in the type of chokehold used by a Minnesota police officer in the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers have voted during a special session to ban knee-to-neck chokeholds similar to the one used in the death of George Floyd.

The measure approved Thursday stops short of criminalizing the use of all chokehold methods.

Several police departments have banned the use of chokeholds amid nationwide protests against police brutality. New York state has passed legislation banning the practice.

The Utah bill would prohibit officers from placing their knees on the necks of people being detained and bar law enforcement agencies from teaching officers how to use chokeholds and carotid restraints. Officers who use knee-to-neck holds could face up to a first-degree felony if the violation leads to someone’s death.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Nearly a week ago, the Salt Lake City Police Department formalized their policy manual to explicitly state that its officers are prohibited from using chokehold in a way that would “intentionally compress the airway or restrict an individual’s ability to breath” unless the officer believed the use of deadly force was necessary.

On June 11, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order, directing the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Corrections to enforce a ban on the use of chokeholds for restraint, effective immediately.

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