Calif. deputies get 'Wrap' devices to subdue unruly suspects

By Joe Wolfcale
Marin Independent Journal

MARIN, Calif. — A new restraining device is being used by Marin sheriff's deputies in the wake of a suspect who died after being "hobbled."

The Sheriff's Office finished training its officers Wednesday and will outfit patrol cars with the new device, called "the Wrap," within days.

The new restraint system is a black-and-yellow nylon slinglike apparatus that forces a suspect to sit upright. It features soft restraints that allow the suspect to be secured to the system and has nylon handles so unruly suspects can be carried if needed.

The new equipment arrived just weeks after the county's civil grand jury recommended all Marin law enforcement agencies stop hogtying difficult suspects. The grand jury's investigation was prompted by the case of Cary Grime, a 47-year-old Terra Linda man who died while in police custody in 2003.

"It definitely stems from the Cary Grime case," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Mike Crain said, but he added that the department would have looked into the new program anyway. "We're looking at the most effective way to respond to belligerent suspects to ensure their safety and to prevent injuries - and protect our officers as well."

Grime was arrested by sheriff's deputies in August 2003 in Novato and appeared disoriented when officers arrived. He fell unconscious after being taken into the jail with his arms bound to his ankles by hobbling devices. Grime died several days later when his family took him off life support.

His widow, Liza Grime, received a $1 million settlement from the county after she filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April 2004.

Sheriff Robert Doyle defended police actions and said Grime was handled properly while in custody. Medical experts testified Grime "had toxic levels of narcotics in his system" at the time of his death.

The restraint apparatus costs $610 apiece. Sheriff's authorities financed the purchase - more than $21,000 - with budget funds. The 34 body wraps will be installed in every patrol car and in the county jail.

Sausalito has been using the system effectively for at least five years, and Novato recently adopted it. Other Marin agencies still use "hobbling," in which a subject's feet are immobilized and the individual can be tethered inside the patrol car.

San Rafael police Capt. Mike Keller said his officers are trained to leave a space between the legs and hands. He said hogtying entails binding the hands and feet together.

"We've continued to use the leg-restraint device, and it has never resulted in an injury," Keller said, adding that the device must be used properly.

The grand jury determined that hogtying could be dangerous, especially when a suspect is placed face down or not transported properly, and recommended that agencies find safer alternatives, such as a body wrap.

"It's very easily deployed, it's safe and is a more effective way to restrain someone, especially someone exhibiting bizarre or uncontrollable behavior," Crain said.

Doyle said that "any maximum restraint has possible adverse consequences." He noted that the body wrap has risks as well and that an in-custody death was reported in South San Francisco recently.

The Sheriff's Office has offered two training shifts to familiarize officers with the system, and officials have given lectures on "excited delirium."

Copyright 2007 Marin Independent Journal, a MediaNews Group publication
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