Brief Research Report: Mortality Associated With the Use of Upper-Body Control Holds by Police

Mercy, James A.; Heath, Jr., Clark W.; of Preventive Health Services, South Can Environmental Control, Bureau
September 1990
Violence & Victims;Fall1990, Vol. 5 Issue 3, p215
Academic Journal
A review of police records for the nine-year period from 1974 to 1982 identified 20 men who died following restraint by an upper-body control hold while in the custody of a large, urban police department. Using evidence from autopsy findings and police reports of events immediately preceding death, we concluded that control-hold use was associated with death in 19 of the 20 cases. This investigation points to three factors potentially associated with control hold-related death that deserve further investigation: Phencyclidine (PCP) use, sickle cell trait, and stress-related arrhythmias in the heart. PCP was detected in blood or other tissues from 6 of 17 decedents tested. Intravascular red blood cell sickling was found at autopsy in 4 of 14 black decedents (29%). Four decedents had some indication of cardiovascular abnormalities.


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