Over the past few years, there has been increased recognition and fight against police brutality. The deaths due to improper restraint of offenders have been a major mobilizer.
While the most infamous case is the choking death of Eric Garner in 2014, other major cases have seen media attention as well. Last week, Denver officials released footage of a 50-year-old prison inmate being subdued by officers in the same fashion, possibly playing a role in his death later that day.
According to police, the method is still the most effective in subduing a offender. The current method consists of controlling the limbs of the subject while gaining leverage, either due to a knee over the subject’s stomach or a hold around the carotid arteries on the sides of the neck, causing unconsciousness without the risk of major damage. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey supported this notion, saying that “the deputies’ use of force was necessary against the struggling inmate” in his decision not to charge the deputies.
On the other hand, the current method certainly has its drawbacks. Force is usually applied to individuals under arrest, and any resistance is met with even more force.
First, in an attempt to subdue the subject due to a carotid hold on the sides of the neck, officers put pressure on the front of the neck, compressing the trachea and eventually causing asphyxiation.
Sometimes, the individual being arrested is under duress, moving around under the influence of a psychotic episode rather than trying to resist arrest. However, officers still recognize this activity as resistance, and apply unneeded force to the person in question.
The well-documented history of deaths with this method has to leave room for thoughts of a better way of restraint.
With the understanding that the current method is one of the best ways to subdue a perpetrator, there is still room to overhaul the system. For example, only using force on the stomach area until handcuffs have been placed on the individual. Or, a technique could be developed that minimizes the force on the stomach overall. For example, the “Canadian Response” uses multiple officers to subdue the limbs of the individual, while Pittsburgh police use another limb-control method.