The US Justice Department has long warned that the controversial restraint method leads to deaths of suspects in custody
The Washington state Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would prohibit law enforcement from hog-tying suspects, with some lawmakers suggesting the technique led to the death of a Tacoma man in 2020.
The legislation sailed through the state Senate without opposition on Tuesday. During the vote, Democratic state Senator Yasmin Trudeau cited the case of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old man who suffocated in police custody after his hands and feet were cuffed together behind his back – a restraint commonly known as ‘hog-tying.’
”He was loved and he was somebody’s family member. And I think any of us on the floor would not want our family member to spend the final moments of their life in this inhumane way,” said Trudeau, who sponsored the bill.
Before it can reach the governor’s desk, the Senate bill will next go to the state House for a separate vote.
Another supporter of the measure, state Senator John Lovick – who served as a state trooper for more than three decades – called the restraint method “dehumanizing.” He described his own experience as an officer, adding “I have lived with the shame of watching a person get hog-tied.”
While the state’s attorney general recommended against the technique in a policy paper issued in 2022, several local police agencies continue to allow it in their guidelines. The US Department of Justice has also urged against hog-tying since at least 1995, when it released a bulletin suggesting that officers “Never tie … handcuffs to a leg or ankle restraint.” The memo said the restraint could lead to “positional asphyxia,” a condition resulting from a lack of oxygen.
A medical examiner ruled Ellis’ death in police custody as a homicide caused by a lack of oxygen, for which three Tacoma officers were later charged with murder or manslaughter. All were acquitted late last year following a two-month trial, however, with the defense arguing Ellis’ death was actually the result of heart disease and drug use.
The Tacoma Police Department has since updated its use-of-force policy, with Chief Avery Moore stating the previous guidelines “failed to serve the best interests of the police department or the community.”
A lobbyist with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, James McMahan, has argued against the hog-tying bill, saying that instead of banning the practice, lawmakers should invest in “alternatives,” though he declined to propose any other options the group would support.
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