The extremely lengthy report, “Investigation of Restraint Device Use in Iowa’s County Jails,” contains a lot of information I will never be able to succintly summarize for you. You can find the full report here if you’re interested. It goes into detail about each of the five county jails criticized in the report — Appanoose, Jefferson, Polk, Wapello and Woodbury.
The article I and Fred Love wrote about the report can be found here.
The most interesting part of the report, for those of us in Linn County, is the fact that Ombudsman William Angrick uses federal court cases filed against Linn County Jail deputies to make his point about “unreasonable” use of restraints, as well as acceptable use. The case I quoted in our article was pretty controversial, but I was mistaken in saying it was the latest case of damages being awarded to a person who was wrongfully treated on “THE BOARD.”
I cannot find anywhere in our archives about the case Jeffrey C. Rogers, 18, of Minneapolis, pressed against several Linn County deputies in 2000. He was apparently kept on the board for 8 hours and defecated on himself because he was not allowed to use the restroom. It should be noted the same sergeant, Sgt. Lynn Johnson, was involved in both the Ogden and Rogers cases. He is still employed at the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, although I don’t believe he works in the jail anymore.
Other cases involving the use of the board have been filed since 2000, but have been dismissed.
So what do you all think about using the board? I got one e-mail today saying it should be banned all together. Here is an excerpt:
(Former Linn County Sheriff Don) Zeller got a patent for the Board around 1992 and tried to sell it to law enforcement agencies across the nation. Initially, several were quickly purchased, mostly in Iowa. Notably, he was turned down by several key law enforcement agencies, including the Iowa DOC. A lot of the agencies that did purchase it, no longer use it and keep it next to their restraint chair. The ones that do still use it face problems like Linn County and have tried to tailor their rules for its use it over the years in an attempt to protect them from legal action. Again notably, Don Zeller’s Board business went bust and he never made a profit. Very few Boards are actually used today and the ones that are still being used are mainly, if not all, in Iowa.
As the Ombudsman’s report mentions, the laws governing the use of all restraint devices are murky. They’re murky for a reason: if laws governing their use existed, the law enforcement agencies would have to be held accountable in a court of law concerning their use. Without laws, the rules are then made in lengthy, murky legal decisions or informally in settlements where the rules can be carefully tailored to only avoid legal action. Without commenting on the legality of the restraint chair, the “Board” was obviously a bad idea from the start and is illegal. Everyone who has knowledge about it knows its days are numbered, one way or another, without a doubt. The devastating part about it is that the Ombudsman’s report really only focused on the restraint chair and not the Board or Linn County. The Board has been in use for almost 20 years now and has still not been removed completely from usage. The report does state that the Board could potentially kill someone, thereby placing the guards in a position where they’ve killed someone and, of course, a life has been lost. Why no one has died on the Board is a mystery, though I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that this did occur in Linn County in the 1990s. Hopefully, this never happens, but it may if this Board is not removed from usage.
Most of what the reader said is true, except the fact that the board is not illegal. It’s use is, however, discouraged. Moreover, as Angrick says in his report, someone DID die while strapped to a version of the board. But people have also died in the chair:
On May 7, 1998, Michael Oliver Lewis died after being placed on a restraint board for three hours at El Paso County Jail in Colorado.
36 The county coroner concluded Mr. Lewis died from a combination of heart disease, medication, and the restraint board, though he could not say which had a dominant role in the death.37 Mr. Lewis’ mother later sued the county jail, who settled in 2001 for $116,000.38 The county also settled a lawsuit the previous year brought by the ACLU concerning the county’s use of the restraint board for $50,000.39 The county put a moratorium on the restraint board use, and in its place began using a restraint chair.40