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Suspect Restraint and Sudden Death

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 65 Issue: 5 Dated: (May 1996) Pages: 22-25
D T Reay
Date Published
4 pages
This article describes how hog-tied restraint can result in death, steps police officers can take to prevent sudden death, and evidence police officers can provide to medical examiners during death investigations.
When a hog-tied suspect dies, forensic pathologists generally attribute the death in whole or in part to positional asphyxia resulting from respiratory compromise. Positional asphyxia occurs when the position of the body interferes with the person's ability to breathe. Several factors can increase a subject's susceptibility to sudden death when police officers place the subject in the hog-tied and prone position, including obesity and organic or drug-induced psychoses. Other pre-existing physical conditions can also contribute to sudden death. For example, any condition that impairs breathing under normal conditions places a subject at higher risk of respiratory failure when the situation escalates to the point where hog-tied restraint must be employed. Even if police officers take precautions, hog-tied and prone restraint is inherently risky. Therefore, instructors should emphasize awareness and vigilance when teaching police officers how to use hog-tied restraint properly. To minimize the potential for injury or death, police officers should get hog-tied subjects off their stomach, determine whether subjects have used drugs or suffer from cardiac or respiratory diseases, monitor subjects carefully for breathing difficulties, be prepared to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, obtain medical assistance immediately if necessary, and inform detention facility custodians of pre- existing medical conditions and respiratory difficulties. In the case of death investigations, police agencies should provide a detailed description of events that led to and occurred during the restraint maneuver. 5 endnotes, 1 table, and 1 photograph