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Police Militarization Takes A Turn For the Worse: The NYPD’s Barbaric Use Of Body Bag Restraints

The NYPD has begun using full-body restraining devices - nicknamed "burritos" - that are essentially body bags for "emotionally disturbed people".

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By: Whitney Webb The militarization of the police in the U.S. has been several decades in the making, but now is reaching a level of dangerous absurdity that no one can deny. Police in the U.S. are beginning to use barbaric restraining devices when making arrests, including arrests for minor offenses.

In the US, the NYPD has begun using full-body restraining devices that are essentially body bags for living people and have been nicknamed “burritos” by the members of the police force. According to the manufacturer, the bag is intended for use on “emotionally disturbed people,” meaning anyone deemed uncooperative by New York police may find themselves restrained in a device traditionally used to remove cadavers from crime scenes or from battlefields.

In May, The New York Times reported that the police used the devices 122 times over an 110-day period earlier this year. One of these arrests was recorded on video and shows a man bound by orange tape being forced into the restraining bag and then being placed against the wall like a piece of luggage. Though these devices are supposedly used to “protect” NY police offers from “dangerous” and “unruly” criminals, this man’s crime was failing to pay his subway fare. The man in the video, Johnell Muhammad, now faces felony assault and other charges for allegedly assaulting the police officers though others, including Mr. Muhammad, insist it was the other way around. The New York police claim to have utilized the bags for over 25 years without incident, but it appears that their use is becoming a daily occurrence instead of a “last resort” approach.

Regardless of whether or not the officers felt justified in their use of the device, these devices further dangerous trends, including the cultivation of the “us vs. them” mentality among police, the use of excessive force, and the dehumanization of those deemed to be criminals. Another issue with the NYPD specifically is the problems there have been in reporting the use of force and disciplining officers for the use of excessive force, giving officers little incentive to try better alternatives. Until 2016, NYPD officers were not required to report their use of force in arrests and only 36% of officers who used unwarranted force were disciplined. As of July of this year, the NYPD must release a report four times a year detailing the use of force of the department. However, many doubt the effectiveness these reports will ultimately have.

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Other attempts to pass laws to force NYPD transparency were blocked by the NY city council amid allegations of backroom dealings between city council members and the NY police commissioner. However, this problem is a national issue as the federal government does not collect or publish information about people killed by police officers, and “justifiable” homicides can be reported to the FBI by local police departments, but it is voluntary. Until there exists a system on the local level for police transparency and oversight, we can expect to see more startlingly and dangerous developments in local police departments such as the use of body bags and other excessive force tactics.

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