In September of 2019, Marcus Smith died while in the custody of the Greensboro police department. Smith died after police “hogtied” him like an animal. Police initially said that Smith was suicidal and they were trying to help him. Bodycam video showed the complete opposite. Officers pushed Smith face down on the street and tied a belt around his ankles and attached it to his cuffed hands so tightly his knees were lifted off the pavement. This police tactic is called the “hobble” but is more commonly referred to as hogtying.

Hogtying involves putting a person on his stomach and tying his cuffed hands to his bound feet behind his back with an adjustable nylon belt, a device known as a “hobble.” This tactic is dangerous because it restrains a persons ability to breathe. Like George Floyd under the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, an autopsy found Smith was killed by positional asphyxia.

A recent report by the Marshall Project found that in the four years before the death of Marcus Smith, Greensboro police used a hobble device to hogtie at least 275 people, two-thirds of whom were Black.  Over the past five years, police in Aurora, Colorado, have used the tactic on 350 people, nearly half of whom were black.

The U.S. Department of Justice had previously warned police departments against using hogtying as far back as 1995. And while some police departments, like New York and Los Angeles, have banned hogtying. Other cities have not followed this trend. Since 2010, at least 23 police in custody deaths have involved hogtying.

What is clear is that this hogtying is barbaric and dehumanizes the citizens that it is used on. It strips people of their dignity and often leads to serious injury or death. Numbers show that the tactic is overwhelmingly used against Black people. To allow police departments to continue to use this barbaric tactic only furthers the message that Black people receive everyday from cities and police departments around the country: “that you don’t matter and we can do what we want to you.”

A civil rights lawsuit is currently pending against the City of Greensboro for the death of Marcus Smith.

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