Mpls. police change policy after report says cops ordered EMS to sedate suspects

Marijuana Arrests Minneapolis
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo addresses the media at City Hall June 7, 2018.
Elizabeth Flores | AP

The Minneapolis Police Department says it now prohibits its officers from recommending medical treatment to EMTs or paramedics. The policy was spurred by information in a draft report by the city that was leaked to the Star Tribune. It said officers had asked emergency medical services staff to sedate some people at police calls using a powerful sedative.

Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement late Thursday night that he changed the department's policy as soon as he learned of the details in the draft report.

The Star Tribune reported Thursday that officers specifically asked medical staff responding to police calls to use the sedative ketamine on people at least eight times between 2016 and 2017. The newspaper reported that some of the people were in handcuffs or spit hoods when they were sedated.

The Star Tribune also reported that the use of ketamine at Minneapolis police calls increased dramatically between 2012 and last year, when the report says it was used dozens of times on people by emergency medical staff at police calls.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Arradondo condemned the publication of details in the report, which he said was incomplete and didn't include input from emergency medical services staff.

Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel said staff with the Office of Police Conduct Review investigated the issue after seeing police body camera footage of an incident.

"In the course of reviewing the body camera video, what we saw raised some questions, we raised those questions and issues to the Minneapolis Police Department, the MPD responded appropriately and quickly," Korbel said. "They did exactly what they were supposed to do in this situation."

Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement that hospital medical professionals made all medical decisions during the situations outlined in the draft report. However, he said it was necessary for the city to make it clear that police should not comment or provide input on those decisions when working with EMS staff.

"Our policy should be clear," he said. "Cops should not direct medical professionals on health-related issues, and medical professionals should not take those directives from cops."

Hennepin Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Heegaard said at a press conference Friday that the report from the Office of Police Conduct Review has significant inaccuracies. Nevertheless, the health system has asked an independent group to investigate whether four specific cases of ketamine use were proper.

"We believe it fits within our protocol. But we understand the concern. We'll have it reviewed again," he said.

EMS crews rarely administer ketamine, Heegaard said, adding that it can save the lives of patients suffering from excited delirium.

"We have reviewed the four cases mentioned in the draft report that involve use of ketamine by Hennepin EMS and have concluded that those met the protocol and were medically justified," said Kelly Spratt, Hennepin Healthcare's chief ambulatory officer.

Spratt said the company was not consulted as the draft report was written and that they only saw a copy of it recently. Representatives of Hennepin Healthcare met with city officials Thursday to "express concerns about what we believe are significant inaccuracies."

Ketamine is one of several drugs used to sedate "profoundly agitated people who are at risk of metabolic acidosis or who otherwise pose a risk to themselves or others," Spratt said. An ongoing study comparing ketamine and other sedatives at Hennepin Healthcare was approved by an independent institutional review board, he said, and evidence shows ketamine has fewer side effects than other drugs.