sunny.png
Tuesday May 18th, 2021 10:27AM

Police use of spit hoods scrutinized after Black man's death

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — Not five minutes after police slipped a “spit hood” over Daniel Prude's head, the 41-year-old Black man went limp. A week later, he was taken off life support.

Prude's suffocation in Rochester, New York, in March has drawn new attention to the hoods — mesh bags that have been linked to other deaths — and the frequent reliance on police to respond to mental health emergencies.

His death has underscored one of the top demands of the police reform movement: that certain duties should not be handled by law enforcement but by social workers or mental health experts. Seven officers involved in the encounter were suspended with pay Thursday.

While many in law enforcement defend the hoods as vital to prevent officers from being spit on or even bitten — a concern that has taken on new importance during the coronavirus pandemic — critics have denounced them as dangerous and inhumane. For some, they evoke hoods used on prisoners at U.S. government overseas detention sites or “black sites.”

Amnesty International condemned the use of spit hoods Thursday, a day after Prude's family made public body camera video and police reports it obtained from the Rochester department. The organization said the hoods are particularly dangerous when a person is already in distress, as Prude appeared to be.

Police use of spit hoods often “looks like something out of Abu Ghraib,” said Adanté Pointer, an Oakland civil rights lawyer who has handled several cases involving the devices. “They’re often used in a punitive way.”

Prude, in Rochester to visit his brother, was taken by police for a mental health evaluation just hours before the fatal encounter after he was said to have expressed suicidal thoughts. Prude's brother told police he was calm when he returned to his house but later got high on PCP and ran away, prompting the brother to call 911.

Police found Prude wandering the street naked after allegedly smashing a storefront window, and he could be seen on body camera footage spitting in the direction of officers and heard claiming to be infected with coronavirus. Officers said that led them to employ the hood.

Prude, handcuffed by this point, can be seen continuing to spit through the mesh and saying that he wanted an officer's gun. The officers then pinned him to the ground, one of them keeping a knee on his back and another pressing his face into the pavement for two minutes. Both appeared white.

Minutes later, an officer could be heard saying, “Ugh, he’s puking.” After realizing Prude had stopped breathing, paramedics who had arrived at some point, began CPR.

“They put a bag over his head, and they squeezed the air out of him,” said Nicolette Ward, a lawyer for one of Prude’s daughters. “He spent the last moments of his life breathing in his own vomit.”

At a news conference Thursday announcing the officers' suspensions, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said: “Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by the police department, our mental healthcare system, our society and he was failed by me."

In fact, Prude’s death has raised questions about how authorities respond to mental health emergencies. Many other deaths at the hands of police have resulted from an encounter that began with a call about someone’s mental health and then devolved.

In many departments — New York City for example — there has been a push to better train police on how to manage the mentally ill or to bring in experts who do, but it remains a major issue.

Spit hoods vary in design, but Park City, Utah, police chief Wade Carpenter said the ones he’s seen are made to be breathable and held in place with an elastic around the neck that can easily be broken.

“It wouldn’t put any pressure on the carotid arteries in the neck. It wouldn’t restrict blood flow to the brain and certainly wouldn’t block the mouth or nose,” said Carpenter, adding that officers in the ski town have used the devices for years without issues.

University of South Carolina criminal justice professor Geoffrey Alpert said the hoods have reduced the risk of officers and bystanders getting spit on for decades.

“Take away COVID, it’s just a nasty thing anyway,” Alpert said.

But Prude's death is the second one involving spit hoods to surface since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a national reckoning on racism and policing. Floyd's death did not involve a spit hood.

Just three weeks after Prude's deadly encounter, a similar one happened in Tucson, Arizona. Police handcuffed and placed a spit hood on the head of a naked man also in distress. Carlos Ingram Lopez died after gasping for air and pleading for water.

In both cases, details about that death didn’t emerge until weeks after.

In another similar episode, a 45-year-old man died in 2015 after police in Bernalillo, New Mexico, placed him in a spit hood, possibly incorrectly.

A responding sergeant from a neighboring community told investigators a thick cotton part of the hood was covering Ben C de Baca’s face, nose and mouth and that he hadn't seen the device "used in that fashion before.”

A medical investigator’s report concluded that improperly placed spit hoods have the potential to cause suffocation and that in this case, the possibility of asphyxia from use of the hood could not be ruled out. Bernalillo settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the man's family for an undisclosed sum.

Prison guards have also used spit hoods, sometimes to deadly effect. Their use varies by jurisdiction — police in Minneapolis deploy them but those in New York City don't. The NYPD, the nation’s largest police force, said a team of police EMTs has only recently started testing their effectiveness in the wake of the pandemic.

When British police started using the hoods in recent years, civil liberties advocate Martha Spurrier slammed them as “primitive, cruel and degrading.” Even some senior police officers have agreed.

___

Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jim Mustian in New York, Colleen Long in Washington, Jill Lawless in London and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

___

Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Police use of spit hoods scrutinized after Black man's death
The suffocation of a Black man after police slipped a “spit hood” over his head has drawn new attention to the tactic and the frequent reliance on police to respond to mental health emergencies
6:44PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing
Britney Spears is welcoming public scrutiny of the court conservatorship that has allowed her father to control her life and money for 12 years
6:24PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Mayor suspends officers involved in man's suffocation death
The mayor of New York’s third largest city has suspended seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude last March
6:02PM ( 53 minutes ago )
U.S. News
AP source: Cam Newton to be Patriots starting quarterback
Cam Newton is officially the new starting quarterback of the New England Patriots
6:43PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Trump threat to Democratic-led cities provokes outcry
The White House says President Donald Trump’s latest threat to cut federal dollars for certain big cities is aimed at spurring them to do more to quell violence, but local leaders are dismissing it as a political gimmick that's unlikely to stand up in court if implemented
6:32PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Tennessee governor won't commit to using vaccine
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is declining to say whether he would be vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available
6:26PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US trade deficit surges in July to highest in 12 years
The U.S. trade deficit surged in July to $63.6 billion, the highest level in 12 years, as imports jumped by a record amount
5:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
Tech slump sends stock market to its biggest loss since June
Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street Thursday as high-flying technology companies took a tumble after months of spectacular gains
5:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden, in Kenosha, hails fight for racial progress
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told residents in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that the police and protest violence their city has experienced in recent weeks can be part of an awakening that helps the United States finally confront centuries of systemic racism and social discord
4:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing
Britney Spears is welcoming public scrutiny of the court conservatorship that has allowed her father to control her life and money for 12 years
6:24PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Mayor suspends officers involved in man's suffocation death
The mayor of New York’s third largest city has suspended seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude last March
6:02PM ( 53 minutes ago )
Black man killed by Rochester police is remembered as loving
The aunt of a Black man who suffocated after police in New York’s third-largest city put a “spit hood” over his head says he was the loving father of five adult children and had just arrived in Rochester for a visit with his brother
4:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
White House faces skepticism over prospects for a vaccine
Could the U.S. really see a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day
4:35PM ( 2 hours ago )
Portland protests set up clash between journalists, police
Journalists have been covering protests in Portland, Oregon, for three months
3:42PM ( 3 hours ago )