‘NEVER HOG-TIE a prisoner:’ Instructions on device warn against fatal restraint
The RIPP™ Hobble, the device Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott identified as used on Marcus Deon Smith, is packaged with instructions stating it should never be used in the manner GPD bodycam videos show officers restraining Smith immediately before his death on Sept. 8.
The state medical examiner declared that death a “homicide,” meaning Smith died from the actions of others. The GPD officers attached his wrists to his feet behind his back while he was on his stomach, a technique colloquially known as hogtying. This resulted in cardiopulmonary arrest from positional asphyxia.
As described in the Dec. 11 YES! Weekly article “Hogtying, homicide and humanity: DOJ document warns about restraint that killed Marcus Deon Smith,” the bodycam videos appear to contradict statements made by Chief Scott. Although the chief described his officers as having “immediately” turned Smith over, the videos depict him in a face-down position for 24 seconds after the restraint is applied.
In his introduction to the video compilation edited by the city, Scott called the restraint a “RIPP Hobble” five times, beginning at 03:33. The only restraint sold under this name is the RIPP™ Hobble from RIPP™ Restraints International, Inc., a company created in 1987 to design and manufacture restraints marketed to law enforcement agencies. To determine what instructions are shipped with it, I ordered one last week.
It arrived packaged with a folded glossy cardboard sheet with the bold and italicized instructions “NEVER Hog-Tie a Prisoner.” The reverse side included illustrations depicting how to use it to prevent a prisoner placed in the back seat of a police car, as Smith was, from kicking. The method does not involve attaching the ankles to the wrists or placing the person face-down on their stomach.
After receiving the restraint, I emailed company president Joelle DeVane and asked her how long it has been packaged with those instructions. She responded with the following statement:
“RIPP has been training to NOT hog-tie an individual since at least 1994. That’s the furthest I can find, for sure, and that was when my father, Bill DeVane, Sr. started training law enforcement on the subject of Sudden Custody Death Syndrome (SCDS), which covers positional asphyxia, positional restraint asphyxia, excited delirium and cocaine psychosis.”
I also emailed GPD public information officer Ronald Glenn and asked why the department had not followed the instructions included with the device. On Thursday, Glenn responded that “the statements regarding the application of this restraint remain accurate and in compliance with GPD Directives. In this incident officers use the device as a maximum restraint tool that follows GPD policy and training on restraint.”
When asked if the device used on Smith was a RIPP Hobble, Glenn wrote that the department purchases equipment ‘from multiple manufacturers” and “the device could be from any of the manufacturers from which we purchase.”
In her email response to me, DeVane requested that I attempt to determine if her company’s product, the only restraint which can be called a RIPP Hobble, was used by the GPD, rather than a similar “knock off.”
Not only Chief Scott but also former District Attorney Douglas Henderson repeatedly called the device by the proprietary name trademarked by DeVane’s company. On Dec. 28, Henderson, outgoing DA for Prosecutorial District 16, ruled there had been no criminal negligence in Smith’s death, and that the “matter should be considered closed.” Henderson used the term “Ripp Hobble” four times in his letter to the chief.
That term is used twice in the manual of Greensboro Police Departmental Directives, in section 11.1.4 on page 255, the directives state:
“Additional Restraint: Sometimes it is necessary to use a higher level of restraint than handcuffing. In those cases, there are alternative restraint techniques which may be used. In addition to the wrists, the feet or ankles of the arrestee may be secured to restrict the independent movement of the feet and legs. For this purpose, training is provided in the use of the RIPP HOBBLE restraining device. If further immobility is needed, the secured wrists and ankles of the arrestee may be linked together using flexicuffs or the hobble device. At no time shall the wrists and ankles of an arrestee be linked together using the RIPP HOBBLE restraining device, unless the arrestee can be seated in an upright position, or on their side If this is done, the knees of the arrestee will not be bent more than 90 degrees (unless extenuating circumstances exist) to prevent stress being placed on the arrestee’s chest muscles or diaphragm which might contribute to a positional asphyxia situation.”
As previously reported, both Chief Scott and Officer Glenn and have stated that these directives only apply to “transporting persons in custody.” In his email, Officer Glenn restated this, using the same words spoken by Chief Scott to Triad City Beat’s Jordan Green. “Unfortunately in this case we never got the point of transporting Mr. Smith.”
This section of the manual is actually titled “HANDLING AND TRANSPORTING PERSONS IN CUSTODY,” and nowhere does it state the directive only applies to those being transported. The videos repeatedly depict Smith being “handled” by the police.
In answer to my question as to the current whereabouts of the specific restraint used on Marcus Smith, Scott replied that the “device was collected as part of the investigation.” My inquiry as to whether it is viewable by the press received a terse “No it not.” [sic]