Better Late than Never – Vermont bans Police Chokeholds and mandates Body Cams.
Author: Shaurya Shukla, Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
On 13th July 2020, Governor of Vermont i.e. Phill Scott gave green light to a new law bill. This bill mandates the police personnel to wear body cams on duty and forbids them to use chokeholds while arresting someone. This legislation prohibits the use of any maneuver on a person that applies pressure to the neck, throat, windpipe, or carotid artery that may prevent or hinder breathing, reduce intake of air, or impede the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain. Any officer, who violates this law will be sentenced for 20 years and will be fined for $50,000. Moreover, from 1st of August 2020, all the fund grants to the law enforcement agencies will be contingent to the data of roadside stops of police. The data will track the age, gender and race of the driver.
This decision came weeks after the death of George Floyd, who was brutally killed by a police officer by choking his windpipe on the ground. This event sparked massive anti-racism protests in the state. This decision was taken with an aim to increase police accountability in the state. The author through the blog aspires to cover the George Floyd incident and the human rights violation entailed with that incident. The author will try to throw some light on the history of racism in the USA and will give his critique on such laws.
Timeline of George Floyd Incident:-
This event was such a sinister and doomy event that hashtags like #sayhisname, #blacklivesmatter and #Icantbreathe became the cry of the whole world on twitter. A 46 year old man named George Floyd was arrested for using a fake $20 bill at local cup foods of Minneapolis, he was brutally killed in police custody by pinning his neck on the ground. The autopsy report of George Floyd showed his cause of death as neck compression, which resulted in stopping the blood flow to the brain. This event created a brouhaha environment in the state and the four officers involved in this event were fired. Following this event massive protests broke out in different parts of the USA which were started peacefully but turned violent later. Not only people from USA but people from almost every part of the globe gave their fair share of loathe to the US government for this event.
Derek Chauvin, the officer, who was seen kneeling to Floyd’s neck in the viral facebook video was charged with 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree man slaughter which in toto contains 35 years in prison as punishment. Floyd’s family has demanded that the rest of the three officers should also be punished. Floyd’s brother, Philonese in an address to the congress urged all the lawmakers to make laws for police accountability so that his brother’s death doesn’t goes in vain. The step taken by Vermont is a positive response towards a racism free future.
History of Racism in America:-
Racism is not a new terminology for America as its seed was sown in America since the colonial era. During that time the white Americans were given social and legal privilege over the other races. The black people were treated as slaves and a police institution was made to keep a check on slaves and suppress their revolts. Then came 1865, when an act was passed by the US congress, which abolished slavery and 4 million slaves were emancipated from the cruel clutches of their masters. Jim crow laws played a major role in escalating the levels of racism as these laws allowed the practice of racial segregation in the southern part of U.S. Due to these laws, black people were forced to study in different schools and live a cloistered life in ghettos away from the town.
These laws also increased the cases of lynching of black people in USA. These laws were practiced till 1965. Segregation of government schools on the basis of race was ended in the landmark judgement of Brown v. Board of Education. Some affirmative actions were also taken by great leaders and orators like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and Martin Luther King’s emancipation proclamation were the most celebrated speeches for ending the anathema of racism but such great orators were also not able to change the scenario completely. And the reason for that is quite blatant. If the mindset of the people will not change, then there is no chance that America will be free from the evil named racism.
Human rights violation in George Floyd incident:-
The way in which Floyd was killed was a major transgression of some basic human rights guaranteed by two international conventions of UNO(United Nations Organization) i.e. UDHR(Universal declaration of human rights) and ICCPR (International Covenant on civil and political rights). As UDHR is not a binding treaty, there is a legally binding treaty for human rights known asICCPR. This treaty was signed by every permanent member of UNO and as USA is also a permanent member of UNO, it has also signed this treaty. This treaty was ratified by US in 1992. The human rights violated in Floyd’s case were:-
- Article 2 of UDHR and article 2(1) of ICCPR says that everyone is entitled to all the right of this convention irrespective of race, sex, religion, etc.
- Article 3 of UDHR and article 6(1) of ICCPR says that everyone has the right to life and security, which was violated when Floyd’s life was arbitrarily taken away.
- Pinning someone down and kneeling on his throat is nothing but the transgression of his right provided under article 5 of UDHR and article 7 of ICCPR, which say no one should be subjected to arbitrary, inhumane and hostile treatment.
Conclusively, the author wants to say that killing a man just because of his skin complexion and killing someone unlawfully in the police custody is nothing but a genocide of human rights provided by various International conventions. The step taken by Vermont is a commendable step, but other states of USA should also understand the gravity of this incident and try their best to increase the level of accountability of their police. If this is not stopped here, today it is George Floyd, tomorrow it will be someone else. As urged by the younger brother of Floyd, his brother’s sacrifice should not go in vain. We are living in 21st century, 2020 to be specific, there should be no place for color discrimination or racism in the contemporary society, especially in a superpower like the United States of America.
 Meredith Deliso, Timeline:| the impact of george floyd’ s death in Minneapolis and beyond, 17 July 2020, 8:37 AM, https://abcnews.go.com/US/timeline-impact-george-floyds-death-minneapolis/story?id=70999322
 Arfa Javaid, History of Racism in US: Here’s all you need to know, 17 July 2020, 9:30 PM, https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/racism-in-the-united-states-1591610589-1
 Brain Duignan, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 17 July 2020, 9:34 AM, https://www.britannica.com/event/Brown-v-Board-of-Education-of-Topeka
 UDHR § 2 (1948)
 ICCPR § 2(1) (1976)
 UDHR § 3 (1948)
 ICCPR § 6(1) (1976)
 UDHR § 5 (1948)
 ICCPR § 7 (1976)