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Police Chiefs opposed to bill that would ban handcuffing people face down on their stomach

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) - A bill going through the Colorado legislature draws the ire of multiple southern Colorado Police Chiefs. The bill would eliminate police officers' ability to subdue a person using "prone restraint," or placing them face down on their stomachs while being arrested or detained in handcuffs.

The bill does specify that officers would be prohibited from using prone restraint to subdue a subject, except in cases in which the use of deadly physical force is justified. The bill also states that officers who use prone restraint have to immediately reposition a person to facilitate breathing once the person is in handcuffs or the person's hands are tied. 

"We're not saying you can't use restraint at all, but we are saying that once you have someone subdued and controlled, that you must lift them back up so that they can breathe," Democrat State Representative Leslie Herod said.

Herod and the other co-sponsor on the bill, Rep. Steven Woodrow, tell our news partners in Denver, 9News, they were inspired to introduce this bill because of hundreds of in-custody deaths in recent years involving prone restraint, as highlighted in multiple 9News reports.

After the bill was introduced on March 11, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez and Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller have voiced their opposition to the bill, claiming it would hurt their officer's ability to safely do their job.

"It does not make us safer. It quite, in fact, makes apprehension under those circumstances less safe. And I think it impacts our recruitment and retention pretty harshly," said Vasquez.

In an op-ed sent to KRDO13 Investigates, the Pueblo Police Chief called the bill a "misguided, dangerous bill that places my officers, others throughout the state, and those we contact in danger."

"The only individuals I ever ordered to lay prone or took to the ground physically and placed in the prone position were those suspected of committing a felony, those who were potentially armed, or those who resisted arrest," Noeller said.

Noeller pointed to Bureau of Justice Statistics that show police officers in the U.S. contacted 61.5 million individuals in 2018, and 99.99% of all contacts resulted in model outcomes. He added that this piece of legislation ignores the role that offenders, or people being arrested, play in the result of a safe arrest.

"It's when a person refuses the lawful commands an officer is giving and they start fighting and struggling, that's when force escalates. So the role the individual that's being taken into custody is critical. If they will just follow the lawful orders, then things will go smoothly," Vasquez added.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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