UK police guidelines permit restraint techniques that kill

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

In 2010, a study conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) of England and Wales found that, in the eleven-year period between 1998 and 2009, there were 16 restraint-related deaths.  However, further research by Inquest, a UK-based organization that investigates and prosecutes cases involving deaths in custody, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed eight additional cases of restraint-related death during that time period.

Although extensive research has demonstrated the potential lethality of certain forms of restraint the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) still condone the use of any and all restraint methods as long as an officer can justify that the amount of force used was proportionate to the situation. The current ACPO lead on restraint, Commander Simon Pountain, said, “Officers are required to make split-second decisions in difficult situations.  Where an individual is violent and represents a danger to themselves and the public, the police are rightly expected to restrain them for their own safety and to protect other members of the public.”

One of the most dangerous forms of restraint, ‘prone restraint’ involves forcing a suspect facedown on the ground with his or her hands cuffed behind his or her back and a knee placed firmly on the back and often times on the neck as well. This technique has proven to dangerously restrict breathing and even cause heart failure. APCO asserts no restraint techniques are prohibited, as long as an officer can show the use of force was proportionate.

In comparison to the ACPO restraint policy, which endorses prone restraint in situations that officers deem it necessary, the Prison Service system has implemented stricter guidelines on appropriate use of restraint methods. Prison Service rules now require that “a prisoner must never [original emphasis] be kept in the prone position with their hands held behind their back in ratchet handcuffs.” Partly because of this, there have only been two restraint-related deaths in the prison system during the same period in which police officers have been implicated in more than 20 restraint-related deaths.


Title: Police guidelines permit techniques that can kill

Author: Dan Bell

Publication: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Date of Publication: 31 January, 2012


Student Researcher: Jordan Ranft, Santa Rosa Junior College

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman, Santa Rosa Junior College