Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial

, Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial, Nzuchi Times National News
, Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial, Nzuchi Times National News

The precise number of in-custody death investigations the San Diego research has influenced is impossible to know, in part because it has been used to ensure that such cases never reach a courtroom. A joint investigation by news stations in Minneapolis and Denver counted more than 113 police prone restraint deaths since 2010, costing taxpayers $70 million in wrongful death payouts. Criminal charges against officers in such cases are exceedingly rare.

But as fatal police encounters draw increasing scrutiny, so has the research — a growing chorus of experts argues that it is flawed and has been too broadly applied. The studies do not, and ethically cannot, replicate the stress and violence of real police pursuits, and critics say they fail to take into account the physical vulnerabilities, including drug use, obesity and pre-existing health conditions, of many people who wind up being subdued.

On Thursday, a leading medical journal published a new study that found that fatal police violence is frequently misclassified, in part because medical examiners identify other reasons for deaths that occur in police custody.

, Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial, Nzuchi Times National News

Some critics of the restraint research had hoped its influence would crater after this year’s murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of Mr. Floyd. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers tried to use the research to bolster their defense, but the prosecution’s star expert witness dismissed it as “highly misleading,” explaining in granular detail how the position and weight of the officers forced Mr. Floyd to fight for air. Mr. Chauvin was convicted.

“I thought, ‘This is it — they’ll never ever be able to defend prone restraint again,’” said Alon Steinberg, chief of cardiology at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, Calif., and the author of a recent paper on prone restraint and cardiac arrest. But the San Diego studies have continued to mislead officers into believing the technique is safe, he said, and have given the legal system a means to excuse their actions.

“People are dying all the time, and we’re not doing anything about it,” said Dr. Steinberg, who has worked as a consultant in cases against police officers. “I want to shout it out to everyone: Let’s stop this right now.”

, Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial, Nzuchi Times National News

The precise number of in-custody death investigations the San Diego research has influenced is impossible to know, in part because it has been used to ensure that such cases never reach a courtroom. A joint investigation by news stations in Minneapolis and Denver counted more than 113 police prone restraint deaths since 2010, costing taxpayers $70 million in wrongful death payouts. Criminal charges against officers in such cases are exceedingly rare.

But as fatal police encounters draw increasing scrutiny, so has the research — a growing chorus of experts argues that it is flawed and has been too broadly applied. The studies do not, and ethically cannot, replicate the stress and violence of real police pursuits, and critics say they fail to take into account the physical vulnerabilities, including drug use, obesity and pre-existing health conditions, of many people who wind up being subdued.

On Thursday, a leading medical journal published a new study that found that fatal police violence is frequently misclassified, in part because medical examiners identify other reasons for deaths that occur in police custody.

, Why the Studies Around Police Restraints Are Now on Trial, Nzuchi Times National News

Some critics of the restraint research had hoped its influence would crater after this year’s murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of Mr. Floyd. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers tried to use the research to bolster their defense, but the prosecution’s star expert witness dismissed it as “highly misleading,” explaining in granular detail how the position and weight of the officers forced Mr. Floyd to fight for air. Mr. Chauvin was convicted.

“I thought, ‘This is it — they’ll never ever be able to defend prone restraint again,’” said Alon Steinberg, chief of cardiology at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, Calif., and the author of a recent paper on prone restraint and cardiac arrest. But the San Diego studies have continued to mislead officers into believing the technique is safe, he said, and have given the legal system a means to excuse their actions.

“People are dying all the time, and we’re not doing anything about it,” said Dr. Steinberg, who has worked as a consultant in cases against police officers. “I want to shout it out to everyone: Let’s stop this right now.”