How Many Sheriff’s Deputies Does It Take to Restrain a Foot?

We’ve all heard the story or seen the video by now about that Deputy Vanderveer from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office pepper-spraying an inmate point-blank in the face. The Sheriff’s Department issued the following statement:

Deputy Vanderveer has been employed in the booking division since May 2012.

The booking staff uses the restraint chair for the safety of the inmates, other inmates and officers, and to prevent destruction of county property.

This inmate was placed in the restraint chair because he was drunk, belligerent and combative with the booking deputies. He was placed in the chair for his safety and the safety of others. The spit mask was placed on him because he was spitting on the booking deputies and Murfreesboro Police officers.

Once he was put in the chair, he was checked on regularly by the booking deputies and the medical staff.

The booking staff was monitoring the inmate on a camera when they noticed his leg was loose from the restraint and he tried to tip over the chair. Booking deputies entered the cell for fear the inmate was going to tip over the chair and injure himself.

Booking Deputy Vanderveer asked the inmate several times to allow him to re-restrain the inmate’s leg. The inmate refused to comply. Also, Booking Deputy Vanderveer feared the inmate would kick him in the face. When the inmate refused to comply, Booking Deputy Vanderveer applied a chemical agent to his face. The inmate then complied and allowed himself to become fully restrained.

Anytime a chemical agent is applied, the inmate is secured and then the medical staff is immediately brought in to check the inmate. The medical staff checked him at regular intervals.

The inmate apologized for his actions on release.


Well, this old lady calls B.S., as I think most individuals of sound mind do.

Use of the word “fear” stands out to me. Is an inmate tipping over a chair something to fear?

He was already fully restrained, except for his foot, and wearing a mask. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe he’ll fall on his head, then lay there and struggle until he passes out? That would be entertaining to watch. Maybe he’ll break the chair? I’ll bet those chairs are built sturdy for such a occasion, though. How were his actions deserving of having a burning chemical agent sprayed into his eyes?

Have you ever accidentally sprayed sunscreen into your face? I got just a little in my face last week and gosh, did it sting like the dickens, even after I rinsed with water. Almost ruined my afternoon at the pool. Imagine having it sprayed directly into your eyes while you’re wearing a plastic mask, then having to wear it for 10 minutes before first aid is administered. Sounds like torture to me! The inmate must have said or done some really terrible things to deserve that.

The Sheriff’s Department uses the word “applied” to describe the scenario in their explanation, just like sunscreen.

What I don’t understand: why not let the inmate tip the chair over if he’s drunk and belligerent enough to do so? Or why not stick him in a jail cell and let him sober up first, then book him?

The answer is pretty simple really. Because Deputy “Vander-fear”—who was previoiusly arrested for a DUI himself—acted out in his own mind-created anger.

They stated he feared the inmate would kick him in the face, but he doesn’t look afraid in the surveillance video. His body language doesn’t indicate “fear.” He was down on one knee, talking directly into the inmate’s face, ordering him to comply. That’s aggression, not fearfulness.

After all, it was a foot he was dealing with. How much harm was one unrestrained foot really going to do?

Question of the day: How many Rutherford County Sheriff’s deputies does it take to restrain a foot?

One? Two? Five? Thirty? . . . without resorting to unnecessary violence?

It’s almost comical, except for the poor guy who feels like his face is burning off.

Really though, at what point did it become a good idea to go ahead and injure the inmate with pepper spray in order to prevent him from injuring himself? Probably about the point in time that Deputy Vander-fear started to feel undermined and pissed off.

At that point he’d probably been spit on, sworn at, maybe wrestled with or even swung at—a tough job, no doubt—but part of the job, no less, with the most important part of the job being to maintain calmness and peace of mind in such situations, free from personal anger or retaliation against individuals acting out. After all, he knew the inmate was in a state of drunkenness and wasn’t himself.

When you think about all of the ways the situation could have been handled better, it becomes very clear just how skewed the deputy was in his thinking at that moment.

They said the inmate apologized upon release. Seems like it should have been the other way around.

Officers should have been able to maintain control of the situation without resorting to unnecessary violence, and Vander-fear should have been held accountable for his actions.

It’s troublesome that people are subjected to that type of treatment upon arrival in the custody of our county’s sworn keepers of the peace, and that law enforcement deems itself worthy to dole out that type of cruel punishment when someone doesn’t “comply.”

When did the law become “submit completely to those wearing a badge or risk subjecting yourself to whatever form of violence they see necessary in order to force you to submit?”

Someone needs to restrain Vander-fear to a chair, except for one leg of course, and let him undergo that same kind of treatment, then let him decide if it’s OK to treat other human beings that way.

If I’m ever incarcerated because I’m drunk and belligerent and I’m unconscious of what I’m saying or doing, I hope they’ll just use an old-fashioned bucket of water, or dunk me in the nearest horse trough to sober me up, and hold the pepper spray.


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