GPD claims hogtie restraint purchase records not public information
The Greensboro Police Department claims that documents detailing the purchase of hobble restraint devices of the type used in the fatal hogtying of Marcus Deon Smith are not subject to public information requests.
On June 14, YES! Weekly submitted public information request No. 9865 via the city of Greensboro’s Public Information Request Tracking (PIRT) system. The PIRT request was for all records pertaining to “the purchase of the device used to restrain Marcus Smith on Sept. 8, 2018, by binding his ankles to the handcuffs, showing all details about the purchase and the device, including manufacturer; and a copy of all instructions that came with that device.”
On July 2, GPD information officer Ronald Glenn sent the following response to city public records administrator Kurt Brenneman:
“The hobble devices which have been utilized by Greensboro Police officers were purchased from various manufacturers based on the time the devices were purchased, availability of the product, and price of product at time of procurement. Each device is nearly identical regardless of the manufacturer and each device works in exactly the same way. The products are shipped in packaging that does not contain manufacturer instructions. Any further information is not a public record pursuant to N. C. Gen. 132-1.4(a). NCGS 132-1.4(a) says ‘Records of criminal investigations conducted by public law enforcement agencies, records of criminal intelligence information compiled by public law enforcement agencies, and records of investigations conducted by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, are not public records as defined by G.S. 132-1.’”
When forwarded Glenn’s response to Brenneman, Amanda Martin, communications lawyer and general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association, strongly disagreed with it.
“I think you are entitled to the documents you have requested,” she wrote in a July 15 email. “I do NOT think purchase records are records of a criminal investigation.”
Despite the claim that “further information” about the purchase of hobble restraints of the type used on Marcus Smith “is not a public record,” records of GPD purchases of such devices were released in compliance with another public information request earlier this year.
On Jan. 13, 2019, Greensboro News & Record reporter Richard Barron made public records request No. 9256 for “all emails and/or text messages about Marcus Deon Smith and/or the RIPP Hobble restraint system and/or hogtie restraint.”
In response to this request, the city released purchase records of multiple devices listed as “G&G [Gould & Goodrich] Nylon hobble restraint.” According to emailed invoices, those restraints were shipped to three officers at 100 Police Plaza: one to officer Shawn Fowler on Oct. 17, 2018, one to officer Mallory Eason on Nov. 2, 2018, and five to officer Billy Barham on Jan. 17, 2019. As per the parameters of Barron’s request, the city only released records of transactions that occurred after Sept. 8, 2018, the date of Marcus Smith’s death.
The city’s response to Barron’s PIRT also included an email that, while not relevant to the purchase of hobble restraint devices, addresses questions about what training officers receive in the use of those devices.
On Nov. 16, 2018, officer Daniel Hayden sent GPD attorney Andrea Howell an email with the subject line “RE: SCAT Question.” It read, “Attached is the supplemental lesson plan we use to teach with the PBIC [Police Basic Introductory Course], the Ripp Hobble is covered in section 8 on page 11.”
The document attached to Hayden’s email is titled “Supplemental Subject Control Techniques.”
Section 7 states:
“A RIPP Hobble restraining device allows officers to maximally restrain a combative subject during detention, transport, or movement throughout a facility. This device is made of a nylon strap that is fed through a jawed alligator clip-hold to create a permanent loop. The device is equipped with a metal snap at the end of the strap that can be attached to handcuffs.”
Subsection-A describes four steps in applying this restraint (italics indicate direct quotation, but the boldface warning is in the original):
(1) Control subject in a prone position and apply handcuffs.
(2) Cross subject’s feet and place the loop around the ankles. Tighten the strap using the alligator clip-hold until feet are securely contained and unable to be pulled out of the loop.
(3) Bend the subject’s knees and attach the buckle to the hinge of the handcuff, or pass strap around the hinge and attach the buckle to the strap or loop.
(4) Subject’s knees should remain extended greater than 90 degrees and the subject must be placed on their side to prevent positional asphyxia. This is known as a “maximally restrained” position.
NOTE: When in this position it is important to constantly monitor the subject to ensure proper respiration throughout the restraint.
As previously reported, multiple viewings of the 20 individual police bodycam videos do not appear to depict the officers or EMTs “constantly” monitoring Marcus Smith condition as he is restrained.
Richard Barron’s public records request was submitted on Jan. 13 and competed on April 8. The archive of records sent by the city to Barron included emails in which Chief Wayne Scott responded to questions from the public and the press about Marcus Smith’s death. But despite several requests from YES! Weekly, both before and after the April 10 announcement of the lawsuit over Smith’s death, Chief Scott has declined to give a statement to or answer any questions.