Video showing banned restraint results in changes at Swedish Hospital

SEATTLE — Swedish Medical Center has placed a security officer on administrative leave while they investigate a video showing the officer putting his knee on the neck and head of a man they were detaining for trespassing.

Since the restraint technique resulted in murder charges against police officers in the death of George Floyd, it has been banned for use by police departments around the U.S., including the Seattle Police Department, after being taught in police academies for years.

In the video, which was recorded Monday, March 8, an unidentified man — accused of trespassing and attempting to urinate on the Swedish First Hill campus — appears on a sidewalk face down in handcuffs. He appears to be restrained by several Swedish hospital security guards waiting for police to arrive. When one of the officers appears to kneel on the man’s neck, a woman walking by starts recording a video.

“Having my background in the military, I know a little bit about the use of force,” said the woman who asked only to be identified as “Kitty” because of her sensitive position within the government. Kitty said she has been working within the military for 17 years.

“It seemed to me to be extremely egregious physical assault,” she said. “And it was way more than was required.”

Eventually, the video shows a fifth Swedish security officer joining the group, and one of them appears to kneel on the man’s neck again, accusing him of assaulting one of the guards. The man admitted pushing the officer as a “reaction.”

“He was handcuffed,” said Kitty. “With his hands behind his back. His backpack was still on his back, but his hands were below the backpack. That was when they noticed me and told me that I couldn’t record video.”

“You can’t video,” shouts one of the guards, which is followed by Kitty’s audible response. “It’s absolutely legal for me to video in public. It is my right as a citizen. You are on a public street. What you can’t do is put your knee on his neck. That is not your right.”

Kitty sent the video to Swedish administrators. And Tuesday, the chief operating officer called her to thank her, apologizing for her experience with the security team. After starting an internal investigation, Swedish sent KIRO 7 this statement:

“Our protocol forbids the use of a knee to the back, neck or head of anyone placed in a prone position. The security officer in question has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of our investigation.”

Last June, hundreds of front-line health care workers at Swedish First Hill left the hospital in the same area, all kneeling together in a dramatic statement of community solidarity and in protest of the police restraint that killed Floyd.

“As health care workers, we are known for caring for society,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wako, chief medical officer at Swedish First Hill, during the demonstration.

Eventually, the video shows the Swedish security team loosening the man’s handcuffs. Seattle police questioned the man, cited him for trespassing and public urination, and released him. Kitty said the SPD officers told her using knees on a neck to subdue a person is banned for their use, but security guards have different training, which may involve the restraint.

“No one has the right to hurt you,” she said. “Not a police officer. Not a security guard. No one.”