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Minneapolis Police Used EMS Staff to Drug Certain Suspects, Report Says

by Betty Nelander

A City of Minneapolis investigation has revealed that some people who were suspected of crimes were drugged by medical responders with a powerful anesthetic at the request of local police. The drugging requests took place over three years.

Ketamine, a date rape drug street-named Special K, was injected to subdue suspects who were reportedly severely agitated, combative, or a threat to themselves or others, although in some cases the individual was already restrained or did not fit the usage criteria, according to the draft report by the Office of Police Conduct Review, a division of the city’s Department of Civil Rights. The drug caused breathing or heart problems, the draft report said, requiring some people to be revived or intubated.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune obtained a copy of the draft report, which said the cases ranged from obstruction of justice to jaywalking.

The emergency medical workers from Hennepin Healthcare were asked to sedate a number of individuals. “Last year, ketamine sedations were used in .095 percent of the 81,500 EMS transports, or calls for service, that we did last year,” said Dr. William Heegaard, chief medical officer at Hennepin County Medical Center. The number of documented injections increased from three in 2012 to 62 in 2017.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was critical of the draft report, calling it incomplete and said he’s initiated steps to “prohibit officers from making suggestions or recommendations to EMS staff.”

“In many cases, the individual being detained or arrested was not only handcuffed, but strapped down on a stretcher in an ambulance before receiving ketamine,” the report states. It raises a “concerning question” over why these people are given the drug before they are transported to the hospital, “given the immediate effects on breathing and heart function that the drug induces.”

According to the report: “Between 2016 and 2017, MPD officers explicitly asked EMS to provide ketamine, either when calling for EMS services or upon arrival of the ambulance eight times.… Also, MPD officers assisted EMTs while they injected individuals with ketamine” by physically holding them down while the EMS gave the shot. Many were in handcuffs, and some were in spit hoods.”

The report will be made available to the public once it is complete, Arradondo said. 


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