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When I joined in 1981, the Albuquerque Police Department had a technique for restraining unruly suspects called “Total Appendage Restraint Procedure” or TARP. Despite the grandiose name, it simply meant cuffing one ankle with a set of leg irons, looping the chain around the chain of the handcuffs the arrestee had on (behind their back, of course) and cuffing the other ankle. The prisoner was thus trussed with bent knees, unable punch or kick and with limited mobility to bite or head-butt. We were taught how to do this in the police academy, but I don’t recall any instruction on the policy for monitoring the person so restrained. We were told to call it TARP and not “hogtie” or “suitcase.”
All was well until the late ’90s. An officer put a TARPed prisoner into the back of his car, face-down. When he got to the jail, the suspect was dead. It turns out that if you lay someone prone who has vascular or lung problems or is obese, is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and/or is agitated, they may die. The cause is something called “positional asphyxia.”
As a result of this, we were ordered to immediately stop using the Total Appendage Restraint Procedure. Shortly thereafter, every officer received extensive training on a new process called “Passive Restraint System,” or PRS. Gone were the leg irons. Instead, the PRS had looped nylon straps that could be cinched around the ankles. These still attached to the handcuffs, by another nylon strap. The legs were no longer bent, and the suspect had the ability to stand or sit. In addition, new policies for avoiding positional asphyxia were drilled into us. Arrestees were not to be laid prone, we were not allowed to put pressure on the torso, back, neck or head, and prisoners being taken to jail in the PRS had to ride seated, with a second officer in the back seat to monitor them. The Department also made it clear that not following these rules would result in severe disciplinary action.
That was several years before I retired in 2003. So, approximately twenty years ago, the local yokels in the hick town of Albuquerque figured out how to not kill people in the manner that George Floyd died. That a Minneapolis police officer thought nothing of putting a person in that position, and that none of the other officers objected to it indicates widespread incompetence throughout the leadership of the department. This and the response to the inevitable riots that occurred shows that the leadership of the city and state are equally inept.
One of the things I learned as a police officer is that it is always easier to enforce the law with the law-abiding. That may seem a bit facile: “Of course, because they don’t break the law.” But it also means that when you do have to arrest or cite them, they are a lot less likely to run, fight, curse and spit at you, or file a false complaint with internal affairs. Unfortunately, there are some officers who find ways to avoid the hassle. I would usually average ten DWI, two domestics and five felony arrests a month. There were officers on the same shift who didn’t arrest a single DWI or domestic violence offender for months at a time.
And the petit fascist leaders of various states and municipalities know this as well. That’s why they readily closed honest businesses, shut down parks and beaches, forbade even tiny social gatherings, and made us all wear masks. They knew that law-abiding people would largely go along with it. And arresting hairdressers, surfers, and sunbathers is a lot easier than getting rid of drug dealers. They whined about the protests against their diktats, but just because it made them look bad. They knew they were safe, even when some of the protesters were carrying guns. What is the score for police officers attacked, businesses vandalized or looted, freeways blocked, buildings and cars burned at the anti-lockdown protests? Zero.
The events of the last week have shown that the entire thing was just a power-grab and charade. How many mayors have told the current crowds of protesters to go back home for their own safety? Have any mayors have even come out from behind their wall of cops to talk to the protesters? Has Governor Cuomo stood up in front of them and said “The virus is death, don’t gather in large groups?” No, of course not. This means that either they don’t care about endangering minorities and young people, or the entire crisis was a lie. Or they are too scared to enforce the law with actual criminals.
Either way, the lockdown is over. Now.
Or maybe it turns out that pepper spray and tear gas kill the Wuhan Virus. If so, I’ve missed it in the literature.Published in