Bill proposes statewide ban on police from hogtying suspects

Jan 22, 2024, 8:03 PM

Seattle police officers respond to a crime scene. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)...

Seattle police officers respond to a crime scene. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

In a groundbreaking move, Washington House Democrats are proposing a new law prohibiting the use of hogtying by law enforcement officers.

Senate Bill 6009 updates existing legislation that restricts the use of force by police. The Senate Law and Justice Committee heard testimony on Monday. (A PDF of the bill can be viewed here.)

Many who testified in favor of the bill urged its passage with an emergency clause in light of the death of Manny Ellis in 2020, who died in police custody after the technique was used to restrain him. The three officers were found not guilty after a trial that ended late last year.

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“This is an emergency,” Nikitta Hunter, a resident of Southwest Washington, told the committee. “What happened to Mr. Ellis should not happen to one more person.”

The bill specifically targets the practice of hogtying, defined as connecting a hobble restraint to handcuffs or other types of restraints. Supporters contend that such tactics are not only inhumane but have also resulted in the unnecessary loss of human life.

Seeing alternatives to hogtying that are less lethal

The legislation emphasized the importance of de-escalation tactics and outlines less-lethal alternatives available to law enforcement officers.

James McMahan, policy director with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, asked lawmakers to fund the less lethal alternatives for small police departments that can’t afford them.

“I’m not going to say the trade names, but many departments would prefer to use these devices,” McMahan said. “We’ve believed that this approach would phase out the use of hogties, while simultaneously replacing that equipment with better equipment.”

McMahan estimated about two-thirds of the 276 law enforcement agencies in the state have policies prohibiting the use of hogties.

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Police departments in Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup, as well as the King County Sherriff, have banned the practice. But several Western Washington cities, including Enumclaw and Lakewood, allow it. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office has yet to outlaw hogtying.

McMahan called it a flawed policy.

“We don’t celebrate the use of hogties, nor frankly do we celebrate the name that we call it,” McMahan said. “However, we do ask that the legislature not prohibit the tools and tactics necessary to prevent a person from being a harm to our officers or themselves.”

The bill places a duty for on-duty peace officers to intervene when witnessing another officer engaging in or attempting to engage in hogtying. Additionally, officers are mandated to report such wrongdoing, further enhancing accountability. The legislation also requires police to render aid at the earliest safe opportunity to any person injured as a result of the practice.

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Curtis Robinson, a commissioner for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, testified that precinct-level decisions on when such restraints should not be allowed.

“This cannot be in the hands of the commanders away at any local level,” Robinson said. “It is a statewide issue. It is a national issue.”

The Senate Law and Justice Committee has scheduled a vote on the bill for Thursday.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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