High Risk Critical Task / Care, Custody, Restraint and Transportation of Prisoners

Law enforcement and corrections officers are often required to restrain and transport subjects in their custody. Two general time periods are involved. The first is immediately after arrest when the arrestee is taken to the agency’s holding facility for booking, processing, and short-term holding. The second occurs during the movement of prisoners from the holding facility to a medical facility, court, funeral, or other location.

With respect to the initial arrest, one of the greatest risks to the arrestee is that of asphyxiation related to prolonged face down restraint. To mitigate this risk, officers should never leave arrestees in a face down position once they have been placed in restraints. Instead, officers shall place restrained subjects on their side or in an upright position. A subject’s breathing can also be compromised when they are placed in a 6-in-1 or hobble restraint with their hands and feet pulled close to one another behind the back, aka- “hogtie”, therefore such restraints techniques shall not be used.

Transportation of prisoners from the jail to outside appointments, hearings, or other facilities is another area of significant risk. Therefore, it is the policy of this agency to establish uniform procedures that provide adequate safety and security of officers, prisoners, and the public during prisoner transports. Once such procedure is that all persons, including arrestees and prisoners, shall be restrained with seatbelts whenever the vehicle is in motion unless some exigent circumstance makes the use of a seatbelt impractical.

Regardless of the circumstances, officers have a clearly established, constitutional duty to protect individuals who are in custody because persons who are involuntarily held cannot protect themselves.

Scenario: Officers are attempting to arrest a very intoxicated driver for DUI. The suspect resists arrest by pushing officers and attempting to run. The suspect is taken to the ground, and he attempts to strike and kick officers. After a struggle, officers handcuff the suspect. He continues to kick at officers, and they use a hobble strap to stop the kicking.

Question: What should officers do next?

Answer: Officers should not leave the suspect face down. Rather, the officers should sit the suspect upright or on their side to avoid asphyxiation. If the suspect displays difficulty breathing or sustained injuries during his resistance to the arrest, the officers should call emergency medical services (EMS) to check the suspect prior to transport. Additionally, officers should check the handcuffs for proper fit and double lock.

Question: Should the officers “hog-tie” the suspect such that his feet and hands are positioned behind the back in proximity?

Answer: No. The use of the “hog-tie” restraint technique is prohibited due to the risk of positional asphyxia.

Additional facts to the scenario: The suspect was seated upright and calm. He was not having difficulty breathing and did not have apparent injuries from the struggle. He is placed in the backseat of a police vehicle for transport to the hospital for a blood test.

Question: What should the officers do before transporting the arrestee?

Answer: Seatbelt the arrestee. The policy requires officers to seatbelt arrestees prior to transport unless some exigent circumstance makes the use of a seatbelt impractical.