Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hogtying ban unanimously passes Senate

Washington State could become the first state to ban this arrest tactic


OLYMPIA - Nearly four years after Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man from Tacoma, died during an arrest while being hogtied, the practice that killed him is one step closer to being illegal in Washington. 

Hogtying refers to the tactic where handcuffed wrists are tied to a suspect's ankles. This practice can contort bodies into a position where they are at risk for suffocation.

A medical examiner on Ellis’ case ruled his cause of death as lack of oxygen. In 2021, defense attorneys argued his cause of death was more likely methamphetamine and heart conditions, but prosecutors called the claim unsubstantiated and maintained his cause of death was lack of oxygen. The officers returned to work two weeks later. 

Monet-Carter Mixon, Ellis’ sister, testified on behalf of the bill. 

“It comes from something that was applied to pigs and animals,” MIxon said. “Typically, it's when you put young four-legged animals and calves in a hogtie so they can be branded, or oftentimes when they are getting ready to be slaughtered and killed.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Senate unanimously passed SB 6009 to ban this practice. There was no debate on the floor, and many spoke in favor. 

“Regardless of how you feel about the outcomes of that particular case, I think it’s important to remember that he was loved and he was somebody's family member,” prime sponsor Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, D-Tacoma, said. “I think any of us on the floor would not want our family member to spend the final moments of their life in this inhumane way.”

Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, who served as a State Trooper for 31 years, was a co-sponsor on the bill and urged fellow Senators to approve the measure.

“Dehumanizing another person costs us our dignity,” Lovick said. “Hogtying is bad for the suspects and terrible for the officers involved. I have lived with the shame of watching a person get hogtied, and it is a shame that you have to live with. We know better now.”

Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, thanked Trudeau for bringing this forward and added he looks forward to seeing officers invest in alternatives. McCune noted being shocked to hear this word is used and that he sees it as “dangerous and pathetic.” 

So far, no states have banned the use of “hogtying.” States like Minnesota and California have banned “uses of force” similar to hog-tying during arrest. 

In 1995, the U.S. Dept. of Justice warned the police this practice can kill people. In 1997, the city of LA banned hogtying.  In 2022, Washington Attorney. Bob Ferguson issued a model policy on police use of force which banned hogtying, but some departments continue to use it. 

James McMahan, Policy Director of the Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, voiced concern regarding the bill. 

“​​We do not celebrate the use of hogtying nor frankly do we celebrate the name that we call it,” McMahan said. “We must acknowledge, however, that a restrained person can still present a danger to themselves and to others, including our officers. 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.”

McMahan vaguely described more humane alternatives that he believes most officers would prefer to use but investing in these technologies and alternatives costs money. 

“The job of our officers is to keep people safe. Sometimes that's not pretty, and we don't boast about it.” McMahan said. 

Trudeau said that the Attorney General's office notes four jurisdictions still use this kind of force and that one of them, without disclosing the name, is “very well-funded.”

The Washington State Journal is a non-profit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.


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