Despite Decades of Warnings, People Are Still Dying After Police Hold Them Face Down

February 28 2024

KQED Radio (KQED) published an article investigating the use of prone restraint by police officers in California. KQED detailed the case of Shayne Sutherland, one of 22 people reported to have died in California between 2016 and 2022 in encounters with police officers where prone restraint was used. Shayne Sutherland’s cause of death was determined by the medical examiner’s office to be cardiac arrest due to “acute methamphetamine toxicity” with a contributing factor of “physical restraint by law enforcement.” According to an analysis cited by KQED, nineteen of the 22 people who died following the use of prone restraint tested positive for meth. Justin M. Feldman, principal research scientist at CPE, was interviewed about the use of prone restraint in encounters with drug users.

Justin M. Feldman, principal research scientist at the Center for Policing Equity, said that some incidents escalate because of officers’ bias against people who abuse drugs.

“I think they fundamentally don’t respect people they view as addicts or tweakers or whatever the pejorative might be, and treat them accordingly without respect for their lives,” Feldman said.

Read the article in full on KQED Radio’s website.