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Forensic Terms To Understanding George Floyd’s Death

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This is not another a political statement, diatribe, or personal treatise about George Floyd’s death and racism. There’s enough of that out there to chew on for a lifetime. 
 
What I focus on is forensics. That means science as it is applied to the law.  Here are some police and forensic terms that will be (and are) coming up around the GF case that we will all want to be familiar with as we try to find clarity and discernment in this tragic case.

Homicide: the killing of another person. Note: Homicide can be legal in circumstances of self defense, saving another person’s life, state executions. 

Murder or Manslaughter: the illegal homicide of another person. 

Choke Hold: The applying of direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.

Neck Restraint: Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.

Conscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.

Unconscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.

Excited Delirium (aka Bell’s mania): Superhuman strength, aggression, violence, paranoia, yelling, bizarre behavior, and hyperthermia usually caused by drug use. A person experiencing a bout of excited delirium (EXD) may experience an alarmingly high heart rate, incoherence, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and body temperature to go as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit. They often feel so hot (hyperthermia) that they disrobe in an attempt to cool down. Other signs and symptoms may include fear, panic, shouting to the point of viscous screaming, and extreme violence. As quickly as it began, the EXD dissipates. What follows is sometimes a sudden and complete cessation of struggling and speaking and/or shouting, and then respiratory distress/arrest, and even death.

Piling On (aka the Polyester Pile) – After the unsuccessful use of Tasers, pepper spray, batons, or this “piling-on tactic involves every available officer using their body weight to subdue the thrashing and flailing person who is exhibiting super-natural strength and violence that it outside of the limits of normal standards. Often a knee-jerk reaction to a person to bring that person’s violent behavior to an end. Is not a tactic that is taught or should be used by law enforcement.

I have borrowed these terms from Lee Lofland, a veteran police officer who also hosts the summer Writers Police Academy every summer and has written Police Procedure & Investigation: A Handbook for Writers.  A link to Lee’s blog is found here

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