Washington state Senate unanimously approves ban on hog-tying by police

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington state Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that would ban police from hog-tying suspects, a restraint technique that has long drawn concern due to the risk of suffocation.

The legislation came nearly four years after Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died in Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Seattle, facedown with his hands and feet cuffed together behind him. The case became a touchstone for racial justice demonstrators in the Pacific Northwest.

“He was loved and he was somebody’s family member," Democratic state Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, who sponsored the bill, said during the Senate vote. "And I think any of us on the floor would not want our family member to spend the final moments of their life in this inhumane way.”

Many cities and counties have banned the practice, but it remains in use in others. The U.S. Department of Justice has recommended against the practice since at least 1995 to avoid deaths in custody.

Democratic Sen. John Lovick, who worked as a state trooper for more than 30 years, described his experience with this restraint technique.

“I have lived with the shame of watching a person get hog-tied and it’s a shame that you have to live with," said Lovick, who joined Trudeau in sponsoring the bill. "We know better now. And it is time for us to end the use of this dehumanizing technique.”

The attorney general’s office in Washington recommended against using hog-tying in its model use-of-force policy released in 2022. At least four local agencies continue to permit it, according to policies they submitted to the attorney general’s office that year.

Ellis was walking home in March 2020 when he passed a patrol car with Tacoma police officers Matthew Collins and Christopher Burbank, who are white. There are conflicting accounts of what happened next, but Ellis was ultimately shocked, beaten and officers wrapped a hobble restraint device around his legs and linked it to his handcuffs behind his back, according to a probable cause statement filed by the Washington attorney general’s office.

A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by lack of oxygen. Collins, Burbank and a third officer, Timothy Rankine, were charged with murder or manslaughter. Defense attorneys argued Ellis’ death was caused by methamphetamine intoxication and a heart condition, and a jury acquitted them in December.