ST. GEORGE — Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department is implementing a new restraint device to keep suspects from hurting themselves while being taken into custody – only the second agency in Southern Utah to make the move.
The “WRAP” restraining device is engineered to restrain an individual in a comfortable, upright position in the patrol car – a tactic that is recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The restraint system is made by Safe Restraints and was invented 20 years ago by two former police officers in Walnut Creek, California.
The benefits of the system were outlined during a demonstration Wednesday for St. George News by the Santa Clara-Ivins and Washington City Police Departments.
The three-part system binds the legs and wrists together while keeping a person sitting in an upright position using restraints which are made to be a safe, nonlethal alternative to stop a conflict. And if that’s not enough, there’s a helmet to prevent suspects from banging their heads during transport.
The system is becoming more popular among many law enforcement agencies, particularly to the north, and is gradually replacing the decades-old “maximum restraint,” which involves cuffing wrists and wrapping the ankles with a hobble strap that then connects to the handcuffs while the prisoner lies face-down, knees bent.
That position has been linked nationwide with suffocation deaths, especially where the prisoner is overweight, highly intoxicated or under the influence of drugs that can harm the heart or brain.
Santa Clara-Ivins Police Sgt. Reed Briggs told St. George News the new device “will allow us to safely restrain an individual which not only protects them from being injured, but also our officers out there that are working with a difficult situation.” He also said it can be used to not only help with combative suspects, but is a safer alternative when officers are dealing with an individual with psychiatric issues.
Once the department started looking into the restraint system, Briggs discovered that officers in Washington City were already using it and had been for years, so he approached the agency to see how it functioned in real-life scenarios with officers in the field.
“When we checked the list and found out Washington City had them,” Briggs said, “we realized they were the pioneers down here so we reached out to them since they’ve already had success with it.”
The list of agencies Briggs is referring to was provided by Charles Hammond, president of Command Sourcing and Safe Restraints Inc. It outlines which agencies throughout the U.S. and beyond are using it, including more than 15 agencies in Utah.
Briggs then provided a presentation during the city council meeting, he said, where one of the council members volunteered to be placed in the device. At the conclusion of the demonstration, the council approved the purchase of two sets.
With two WRAP sets now on board, he said, they plan on buying two more so that each shift is covered. The system is “not inexpensive either,” he said, “but when compared to the costs associated with a situation that can go wrong – it’s worth it.”
The Washington City Police Department has been using the system since 2012.
Lt. Kory Klotz with Washington City said it typically takes two officers to apply the restraint on an unruly suspect, but once secure, “they aren’t going anywhere,” he said, adding it is not only a safer alternative when suspects become combative, but also does the job of several officers.
“That way, we’re not tying several officers up trying to subdue a suspect on a single call,” Klotz said. “So it frees those officers up to respond to other calls and is a better use of resources.”
It also prevents an individual from kicking out windows or damaging computers or other equipment inside of the patrol car during transport. Additionally, he said, it makes the transition at the jail safer for all involved, and can prevent mishaps that can take place between the patrol car and the jail intake bay, similar to what took place during a transport May 26.
That incident involved a handcuffed suspect that kicked out the windshield of a patrol vehicle on the way to the jail, and then jumped from the vehicle and fled as the officer pulled up to the intake bay.
With the device in place, he said, officers notify corrections staff while en route to the jail so by the time the officer arrives they are ready. The transport is then carried into the jail using straps that are attached to the restraints.
Briggs said the decision to implement the restraint system came in the wake of a review of the police department’s protocols and policies, particularly with the recent events that have unfolded following the death of George Floyd, the man who died during an arrest in Minneapolis.
It appears that many police agencies across the state and the nation are conducting similar reviews, supported by the fact that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday that effective immediately, no state law enforcement officers – including the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Corrections – will be permitted to use chokeholds or restraints that pressure the neck or spine.
Briggs went on to say that the use of chokeholds went away “a very long time ago,” and is a method not taught in Utah. Subduing a subject using a chokehold is not included in any officer training and its use is prohibited by the department and has been for years.
Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams shared similar comments, adding the control method “hasn’t been used for decades here. In fact, I’ve never even been trained to use it in all the years I’ve been with the department.”
Briggs said the goal behind the department’s efforts is to ensure the department’s policies were in line with “best practices,” and to increase transparency and accountability within the department, which in turn instills public trust – which Briggs said is at the cornerstone when it comes to the relationship between law enforcement and the community.
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