The Belleville Peaceful Streets Network (BPSN), an advocacy group of concerned residents, has raised concerns about the 2021 police budget, which has included the purchase of emergency restraint chairs, also referred to as “devil’s chair.”
Restraint chairs are used to tie down a person’s arms and legs and are meant to be used on individuals who become a danger to themselves or others. BPSN points to a 2015 research that studied 614 legal motions and cases — the vast majority of which were in the United States – that involved the chair. While the study approved the chair’s use, it found many issues that arose from “inappropriate use.”
Britney Hope, a spokesperson for the group, said nobody deserved the restraint chairs as they were meant to be used on individuals who become a danger to themselves or others. Besides, she noted that experts believed it did not help.
The Belleville Police Service stated that about 30 to 40 prisoners a year attempted to commit suicide or cause themselves bodily severe harm by physically acting out of control. They argue that it is impossible for officers to completely secure an out-of-control prisoner hence the need to include restraint chairs in their budget.
Robert Gordon, a former police officer and Simon Fraser University criminology professor said he was surprised to hear the police force was looking to buy the item, which he says was primarily for transporting a person. He said the chairs were more commonly used in health-care and correctional facilities. In those settings, Gordon noted the chairs were seen as a “necessary evil.”According to Gordon, the standard is set by the Correctional Service of Canada, which uses the chair minimally. He said those chairs should never be used as a form of punishment or as a threat of punishment.
Furthermore, Gordon said the key was to properly train officers to ensure the equipment was not misused or abused. He noted that he was not sure why the police service would need a restraint chair when officers could use handcuffs, another piece of equipment he thought was often misused.