Aiexpress – Washington state lawmakers will be discussing a proposal on Monday to ban the practice of hog-tying suspects by the police. This comes almost four years after the tragic death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, who was found dead with his hands and feet cuffed behind him. The incident served as a rallying point for racial justice activists in the Pacific Northwest.
The use of the restraint technique has raised significant concerns because of the potential for suffocation. Although several cities and counties have prohibited its use, it is still being employed in other areas.
Democratic Senator Yasmin Trudeau, the sponsor of the bill, expressed her strong desire to prevent others from enduring the same “dehumanization” that Ellis had to face prior to his untimely demise.
“How can we ensure that law enforcement officers uphold the law while also treating individuals with the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings?” she questioned.
In the past four years, there has been a rapid surge in the adoption of comprehensive policing reforms by states across the United States. These changes have been largely driven by the widespread protests against racial injustice and the tragic deaths of individuals like George Floyd, who lost their lives due to encounters with law enforcement. However, it is worth noting that only a few states have taken the crucial step of banning prone restraint, as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2021, California implemented a law that forbids law enforcement from utilizing techniques that pose a significant risk of positional asphyxia, impairing one’s ability to breathe. Similarly, Minnesota passed a legislation that prohibits correctional officers from employing prone restraint unless it is deemed necessary as a means of deadly force.
The U.S. Department of Justice has been advising against the use of the practice since at least 1995 in order to prevent fatalities while in custody. Additionally, numerous local jurisdictions have prohibited its use.
The attorney general’s office in Washington advised against the use of hog-tying in its recently published model use-of-force policy in 2022. However, despite this recommendation, at least four local agencies still allow hog-tying based on the policies they submitted to the attorney general’s office that year.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has acknowledged that they continue to permit the practice of hog-tying, but they have chosen not to provide any comment on the bill. It is worth noting that one of their deputies was involved in restraining Ellis, who tragically passed away while his face was covered by a spit-hood.
In March 2020, as Ellis made his way home, he encountered Tacoma police officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who are white, while passing a patrol car. According to Burbank and Collins, Ellis allegedly attempted to enter a stranger’s vehicle and subsequently assaulted the officers when they approached him in the city located approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Seattle.
According to the statement, once the hobble was applied, Ellis ceased all movement.
The medical examiner determined that his death was a homicide resulting from a lack of oxygen. Collins, Burbank, and another officer, Timothy Rankine, faced charges of murder or manslaughter. The defense attorneys contended that Ellis’ death was a result of methamphetamine intoxication and a pre-existing heart condition. In December, the jury acquitted them of all charges.
Trudeau, who represents Tacoma, ensured that her efforts to introduce the bill were approved by Ellis’ sister, Monet Carter-Mixon.
Democratic Senator John Lovick, who has over 30 years of experience working as a state trooper, has teamed up with Trudeau to sponsor the bill.
Republican Representative Gina Mosbrucker, a valued member of the House public safety committee, expressed her anticipation in gaining a deeper understanding of the proposed legislation.
According to the individual interviewed, if it is indeed proven that using this particular method of restraining combative detainees poses any sort of danger, the state should take responsibility by allocating funds and providing training for alternative methods. This would ensure the safety of both the officer and the individual being arrested.
In 2021, the state witnessed a wave of ambitious police reform legislation passing, and the bill arrives a few years later as a continuation of those efforts.
The legislation mandated that officers should only employ force when they have probable cause to make an arrest or prevent immediate harm. Moreover, it also emphasized the importance of using de-escalation techniques whenever possible.
In the subsequent year, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed off on bills that addressed certain aspects of the legislation, clarifying that officers are authorized to use force when necessary to assist in detaining or transporting individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.