A Georgia sheriff has been indicted on federal civil rights charges, including charges that he approved a policy to use chair restraints.
Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill faces four charges that he deprived detainees of the right to due process and freedom from use of unreasonable force by law enforcement, amounting to punishment. The offenses “caused physical pain and resulted in bodily injury” to the four detainees during incidents described in court documents.
The indictment, dated April 19, was unsealed Monday. It says Hill regularly received training that force may not be used as punishment.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office had a policy, approved by Hill, that a restraint chair may be used to contain an inmate acting violently or uncontrollably, to prevent injury to themselves, others or property “when other control techniques are not effective.” The policy stated that the restraint chair is not authorized as a form of punishment.
Nonetheless, the indictment describes four occasions in 2020 in which a restraint chair was used with arrestees who cooperated fully.
In a February 2020 incident, a man was arrested over alleged assault during a dispute three weeks earlier at a grocery store. While the man was being booked at the jail, Hill allegedly confronted him and demanded to know what he had been doing in Clayton County on the day of the assault. The man said, “It’s a democracy, sir. It’s the United States.” Hill snapped, “No it’s not. Not in my county.”
Yes, this sheriff is Black. But it’s still true that once someone is in a police station, they enter a slave-master relationship. Theoretically, there are rules governing police conduct. Functionally, they can and do commit whatever crimes they want. On very rare occasions, such as this, they do get caught. But like most people in the North really weren’t that worried about slavery, even if they might have said that they weren’t totally comfortable with all of it, lots of whites will basically explain away police misconduct or deny that this is a systemic problem or try to change the debate by asking who will arrest those speeding drivers or whatever. Given that policing effectively replaced slavery as the primary way to control the Black population, the comparison is relevant.