A story in Wednesday's Metro section incorrectly said that a bill passed by the D.C. City Council to regulate the use of choke holds by police largely mirrors existing police regulations. The legislation is more restrictive, allowing a police officer to use a choke hold to restrain a suspect only to protect the officer's life or that of a third party. Police regulations now allow such a hold when "reasonable or necessary to control or subdue a suspect."
Police officers who apply a choke hold to try to restrain a suspect could be fired, fined $5,000 and imprisoned for up to a year under a bill that was given final approval yesterday by the D.C. City Council.
The bill, introduced in response to a December 1983 incident in which a 24-year-old man died from a neck compression injury after struggling with police, largely mirrors the police department's own regulations governing choke holds. However, the measure sets a tougher standard of punishment for officers who break the regulations, according to council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8).
"The law has enforcement capability that you didn't have with just regs," said Rolark, the author of the legislation.
In other action, the council gave final approval to a bill authorizing the issuance of $127 million worth of revenue bonds for a major construction project at Georgetown University.
The bonds have been a focal point for conflict between the university and gay activists protesting Georgetown's policies toward gay student groups.
J.O. Anderson, vice chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) labor committee, said yesterday that the choke hold legislation is out of sync with "real-life situations" and could interfere with police officers' ability to respond to life-threatening incidents.
The bill prohibits any hold that applies pressure to the trachea but permits the use of the so-called "sleeper" hold, which puts pressure on the carotid artery and can render a suspect unconscious, in situations where the life of the police officer or a third party is threatened.
"What bothers me is the possibility of a hold being defined as a trachea hold in the middle of a struggle if a person turns a certain way and his windpipe is damaged," Anderson said. "Should a person receive an injury to his trachea, then they would apply the law to say the officer violated it."
The bill was opposed yesterday by council members Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large).
"This bill . . . goes well beyond restriction of the hold, to create potential criminal and civil liability following a justified use," Schwartz said.
Kane said after the meeting that the current police regulations are sufficient.
"I think in terms of police morale that it was unnecessary," she added. "I think it sends a wrong message to police officers to hold back."
The Georgetown bond issue, the second issue the council has approved for the school this year, was passed under heavy pressure from university supporters on Capitol Hill, according to council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee.
Before the bonds are issued, however, Mayor Marion Barry must certify that the university is in compliance with the city's 1977 Human Rights Act or he may waive the human rights certification, Wilson said.
The issue of human rights certification has embroiled both bond issues this year. In a lawsuit being heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals, two university gay groups contend that Georgetown was in violation of the act when it denied them university funds and access to office space.
Gay rights supporters have said the university should be forced to comply with District law if it expects to benefit from the city's power to issue bonds.
Barry declined to say yesterday what action he would take on the human rights question but reaffirmed "my commitment to the gay community."
Steve Smith, a spokesman for the Gay Activists Alliance, said the District government should support the Human Rights Act and resist pressure from Congress.