Monday, November 9, 2009

NV: Questions Raised of Police Restraint Techniques

POSTED: NOV 06, 2009 7:00 PM ESTUPDATED: NOV 06, 2009 9:26 PM EST

The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death for two men who died while in Las Vegas police's custody. The first death happened Sunday night and the second was Wednesday night.

Police say both men started acting up and resisted arrest, so several officers had to restrain them. An autopsy will determine if drugs, alcohol or underlying medical conditions played a role in the deaths. The Clark County Coroner will also decide if a coroner's inquest is needed.

Weapons were not used in either of those cases. Officers relied only on tactical maneuvers to subdue each man. However back in the 90's, certain techniques used by officers to detain suspects had to be changed after several people died.

One specific case gained a lot of attention. Vice officers entered a man's home while he was sleeping. That led to a fight between him and officers and after the use of a chokehold, the man stopped breathing and eventually died.

As the body of Charles Bush was wheeled out of his apartment, questions started forming if officers had gone too far -- even causing the 39-year-old casino workers death. "In addition to going in with out a warrant, literally breaking and entering into his home and conducting an illegal search," said attorney Cal Potter. "Not only that, but they used excessive force and they used a chokehold."

After a corner's inquest found the officer's actions justified, Potter represented Bush's family in a civil suit against the Metropolitan Police Department. That suit caused Metro to adopt a new way of restraining a suspect. "Lateral vascular neck restraint is a situation where blood flow is reduced to the brain. Generally it is not done to the point of passing out because generally a suspect will comply when they feel themselves start to lose consciousness," said Capt. Randy Montandon.

However, with two back-to-back cases of men dying in police custody, one of them subdued using the neck restraint, new questions are being raised. "I think whenever you have these kinds of situations, it should raise eyebrows. It should raise questions. It should raise the matter of, is this the best possible way of handling these situations," said Allen Lichtenstein with the ACLU of Nevada.

Lichtenstein says this is not a matter of whether officers are the good guys or bad guys, but really one of training. "This is a matter that should be under review and revision and techniques should always be evaluated for how things can be done," he said.

Metro police does not want to comment about the questions concerning restraint holds until the investigation is complete on both these cases.

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