Civil rights advocates from groups ranging from the ACLU to Black Lives Matter rallied at Minneapolis City Hall Tuesday afternoon to speak out about allegations of emergency responders sedating people against their will.
The Star Tribune reported it received a leaked copy of a report from the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, which details instances where police officers urged EMTs to use the drug ketamine to sedate people in custody. The newspaper reported that in some cases police officers suggested or urged emergency medical staff to use the drug after a person was already in handcuffs or restrained.
"Medical decisions need to be left to medical professionals. Not police officers," said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU. "Police officers should not pressure, should not interfere with the medical decisions of medical professionals."
Nelson said that, as far as she knows, the ACLU has not been contacted by anyone who has alleged being sedated against his or her will at the urging of law enforcement officers. No one at the rally had read the leaked report, but advocates worry that people of color are the likely targets of this kind of action. They based their concerns on data showing that people of color are more likely than whites to be arrested and detained.
Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds, former head of the Minneapolis NAACP, called on the city and the county to suspend and or fire any police officer or emergency responder who engaged in improper use of the sedative ketamine. Levy-Pounds also called for what she called a truly independent review of the practice of using ketamine and the police department's involvement in the use of the drug.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and police chief Medaria Arradondo have already called for an independent probe but Levy-Pounds and others at the rally said they don't trust the city to find an impartial investigator. Levy-Pounds said she'd prefer that an organization from outside the state do the job.
"We are looking for a credible third-party source to examine these allegations," she said. We do not trust many of our local law enforcement agencies or other organizations who have conducted third-party investigations in the past because all too often they are rubber-stamping the status quo."
Police chief Arradondo has said the leaked report contained some inaccuracies, but he did issue a change to police policy which specifies that going forward, officers are not to provide any medical advice or suggestions to emergency medical staff. Police officials say after the final draft is complete, the report will become public.
Last week, Hennepin Healthcare officials said they will conduct their own review of how ketamine has been used.