A Kansas sheriff's deputy reportedly "used excessive force multiple times" on a child with special needs, according to an order of reprimand from the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training (CPOST), the state's law enforcement credentialing body that issues licenses to peace officers. Eight months later, he still has his license.
The incident involves Matthew Honas, who was employed by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office from August 2006 to March of this year. On February 23, Honas responded to a call regarding an autistic 12-year-old runaway foster child, identified only as L.H. The order indicates that Honas "had dealt with L.H. in the past and was aware that he is autistic." In fact, Honas "had a physical struggle with L.H. prior to February 23, but there was no report or body camera footage of the prior event." Honas also did not wear his body camera on February 23, though his dashcam was recording during the interaction.
During the encounter, Honas "shoved [and] elbowed" L.H. He put the boy in the back of his patrol car "hog tied," meaning he was handcuffed behind the back, his ankles were shackled, and his handcuffs were connected to the ankle shackles. As L.H. sat in the car, restrained and "not actively resisting," Honas pushed pressure points on the boy's jaw, with no direction given for why he was doing it. Minutes later, as L.H. still sat in the car, Honas "deployed his taser," even though L.H. "was not a threat to [Honas] or other officers."
The order calls Honas' actions "punitive in nature," citing his threatening language. At one point, he told L.H., "here's the deal, you do anything you're not supposed to do I will tase you again." He also refused assistance from other officers and did not use any "de-escalation techniques."
According to The Kansas City Star, Honas was fired in March for the use of excessive force. But in its order of reprimand, CPOST stopped short of revoking his certifications. The board contends that he is not currently employed in Kansas law enforcement, but by leaving his license in place, he remains free to work as an officer of the law if he so chooses.
Honas' actions fit multiple worrying trends of police using excessive force, especially against children and people with special needs.
Police in Rochester, New York, responded to a 9-year-old girl having a mental health crisis. As she cried hysterically, police handcuffed and pepper-sprayed her, saying, "you did it to yourself, hon" when she asked them to stop. Similarly, while the presence of resource officers is intended to prevent or mitigate school shootings, they mostly just lead to more kids being suspended, expelled, and arrested. In one example in North Carolina, a resource officer handcuffed a 7-year-old autistic boy behind his back and pinned him face-down on the ground for nearly 40 minutes while taunting him.
In 2021, the Marshall Project determined that over the previous decade, 23 people died after being hogtied by police. Of those, 13 were "mentally ill or in mental crises."