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North Carolina Sheriff's Office Changes Restraint Policy

A screengrab of a video released on Aug. 5, 2020 that shows the events that led up to the December death of John Neville, an inmate in the Forsyth County Jail.
Forsyth County Sheriff

A North Carolina sheriff’s office has changed its restraint policy in the wake of last year’s death of a man jailed on an assault charge, but the restraint wasn’t banned.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office changed the policy on the hog-tie-style restraint used on John Neville in December in the county jail, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Friday. Neville was in jail after he was accused of assault on a female.

Documents obtained by the newspaper showed the policies were updated on July 9. According to the policy changes, people who are resisting and have to be placed in a prone restraint position have to be placed in a sitting position as soon as possible. Officers also are required under the policy to monitor “the person’s color, breathing and level of consciousness.”

“If an individual claims physical distress, medical personnel must be immediately requested to evaluate,” the policy said.

The policy also says that if an officer must use their body weight to control someone in the prone position, that officer “shall exercise extreme caution and shall immediately remove their weight as soon as restraining devices are applied.” Officers should avoid sitting or placing their knee on a person’s head or neck, the policy says.

And officers must “immediately call for medical personnel if an individual does not demonstrate ‘a functional level of consciousness,’” meaning voluntary movement or speech.

The policy change also requires officers to intervene if they see another officer engaging in excessive force and gives medical personnel full autonomy during medical emergencies.

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. didn't respond to a newspaper request for comment, but he alluded to changes to jail procedures Tuesday, when he apologized to Neville's family for the man's death.

Video released Wednesday showed Neville was on his stomach in a cell, where he was handcuffed with his arms behind his back and his legs up toward his buttocks.

The last scene in the second of the two videos released shows a nurse standing at the window to the cell and looking in at Neville. In a faint voice, the nurse appears to suggest that Neville wasn’t breathing. The guards reenter the cell and the nurse checks on Neville, who lets out an groan. The nurse applies her stethoscope, then tells the guards “I can’t hear a heart rate” and says Neville has to be rolled on his back to be treated. She requests an defibrillator and performs CPR on him.

Neville suffered a brain injury because his heart stopped beating, which deprived his brain of oxygen, according to an autopsy report, which also said he asphyxiated while being restrained.

Five former jail officers and a nurse were charged last month with involuntary manslaughter in his death.

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