Colorado lawmakers target hold used by police on Elijah McClain and others who died in Colorado

Colorado lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would target law enforcement’s use of a common hold called prone restraint for stronger regulation, though they scaled back initial plans for broader limitations.

The bill concerns a practice that law enforcement has said is common and necessary but which has come under fire from advocates for police reform. Research indicates that the use of prone restraint has contributed to at least 14 deaths in Colorado in recent years.

Under House Bill 1372, prone restraint — in which force is used to keep a person flat on their stomach on the ground — would be defined as a use of physical force by law enforcement under state law. That would mean excessive and unlawful use of prone restraint would carry the potential for both criminal and civil punishment.

The bill would require law enforcement agencies to adopt a policy that, among other things, directs officers to move people out of a prone position “as soon as practicable” and gives guidance on when to call for medical aid.

Among those backing the measure during a hearing Tuesday was Sheneen McClain. Her son Elijah McClain died after he was forcefully restrained by police and then injected with ketamine while walking home in a 2019 incident. An Aurora police officer and two paramedics were convicted of criminally negligent homicide, while two other officers were acquitted of criminal charges.

“My son just wanted to sit up so that he could breathe better, but also to remove the blood and vomit that was filling up in his lungs,” his mother told lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, which later passed the bill on an 8-3 party-line vote. “All the officers there that night my son was murdered regard their training as the ultimate truth, without a conscience.

“They were all ignorantly wrong.”

Elijah McClain was one of 14 Coloradans who died between 2012 and 2021 after law enforcement officers held them in prone restraint, according to a recent Associated Press analysis. That’s 10th highest among states. California had the most prone restraint-involved deaths in the AP analysis, with 167 cases, followed by Texas with 105.

Law enforcement’s use of prone restraint has gained national attention since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck in spring 2020, an incident that launched a summer of protests nationally, including in Denver.

According to the AP, which examined several kinds of force used by police to subdue people, 740 Americans died after law enforcement placed them in prone restraint positions between 2012 and 2021.

Research shows that the use of prone restraint can decrease breathing and heart function, and the safety of its use has been increasingly called into question.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Education recommended that school districts never use prone restraint against students, stating that “prone restraints or other restraints that restrict breathing should never be used because they can cause serious injury or death.”

“It can be basic. But when it’s misused, it can be extremely …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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