Investigation Reveals Widespread Violations in Police Restraint Guidelines Leading to Fatal Encounters

Jackson, Mississippi – Police across the United States have been found to violate established guidelines for safely restraining individuals in fatal encounters not involving firearms, as revealed by an extensive investigation.

In numerous instances where law enforcement used force to subdue individuals without causing fatal injuries, officers disregarded well-known procedures for safely restraining and subduing individuals. These violations often involved restraining individuals face-down in manners that could impede their ability to breathe or inflicting repeated shocks with Tasers.

While some officers deviated from best practices due to the necessity of saving lives or protecting others, many violations were harder to justify. Officers sometimes resorted to weapons or physical restraint prematurely during routine calls or misinterpreted a person’s confusion as defiance in medical emergencies, leading to a series of errors. Additionally, some officers continued applying force even after individuals were handcuffed and under control.

Over a decade, AP’s investigation documented 1,036 deaths following incidents where officers used force not involving firearms. In approximately half of these cases, medical officials attributed or contributed the deaths to law enforcement, without consistently mentioning adherence to policing best practices.

Determining violations of best practices was challenging in cases where crucial details were not documented by departments. Nonetheless, through an extensive review of police and court records, as well as body-camera footage, AP discovered numerous instances where officers breached guidelines in at least three ways, leading to life-threatening consequences.

One major issue is the lack of national guidelines for how officers should apply force, leaving individual departments or states to establish their policies and training. The absence of consistent use-of-force standards underscores the need for directives from the federal government to provide clarity and direction in this critical area.

Experts emphasize the importance of federal oversight to establish uniform guidelines for law enforcement practices. Alex del Carmen, a seasoned criminologist involved in overseeing reforms at troubled police departments, advocates for federal intervention to set clear standards for use-of-force procedures.

While national policing organizations offer guidelines, the efficacy of these directives in guiding officer conduct has varied. More proactive guidance and oversight from the federal government are crucial to addressing shortcomings in law enforcement practices and preventing future violations of safe restraint protocols.