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Cops And Paramedics Are Still Killing Arrestees By Shooting Them Up With Ketamine

from the i-guess-it's-ok-if-it's-not-on-purpose? dept

Cops — and the paramedics who listen to their “medical advice” — are still killing people. A couple of years ago, an investigation by the Minneapolis PD’s Office of Police Conduct Review found officers were telling EMS personnel to inject arrestees with ketamine to calm them down. This medical advice followed street-level diagnoses by untrained mental health unprofessionals who’ve decided the perfect cure for “excited delirium” is a drug with deadly side effects.

People have been “calmed” to death by ketamine injections — ones pushed by police officers and carried out by complicit paramedics. The cases reviewed by the OPC included potentially dangerous criminals like jaywalkers and disrespecters of law enforcement (“obstruction of justice”). Multiple recordings showed arrestees shot up with ketamine shortly before their hearts stopped or they ceased breathing.

This incredibly dangerous practice of using ketamine to sedate arrestees hasn’t slowed down. Instead, it has spread. What was a horrific discovery in Minneapolis is still day-to-day business elsewhere in the country. Cops and paramedics in Colorado are still putting peoples’ lives at risk by using ketamine as their go-to sedative.

Police stopped Elijah McClain on the street in suburban Denver last year after deeming the young Black man suspicious. He was thrown into a chokehold, threatened with a dog and stun gun, then subjected to another law enforcement tool before he died: a drug called ketamine.

Paramedics inject it into people like McClain as a sedative, often at the behest of police who believe suspects are out of control. Officially, ketamine is used in emergencies when there’s a safety concern for medical staff or the patient. But it’s increasingly found in arrests and has become another flashpoint in the debate over law enforcement policies and brutality against people of color.

An analysis by The Associated Press of policies on ketamine and cases where the drug was used during police encounters uncovered a lack of police training, conflicting medical standards and nonexistent protocols that have resulted in hospitalizations and even deaths.

McClain was killed because paramedics assumed he weighed nearly twice as much as he actually did. They gave him an inadvertent double dose that triggered cardiac arrest. Soon after that, McClain was declared brain dead and removed from life support. McClain was killed for the crime of being suspicious in public (cops were responding to a call about a “suspicious person wearing a ski mask and waving their arms.”) And he was killed by the people who were supposed to ensure his health and safety.

After his death, Colorado’s health department attempted to investigate law enforcement use of ketamine. That investigation appears to have fallen apart before it could really get started. As the AP report points out, there are no uniform reporting requirements for ketamine deployment — not at any level of government. State requirements are different from federal requirements. Consequently, there’s no cohesive collection of data on this drug’s use.

Unfortunately, most government guidelines agree cops can use a particularly worthless term to justify the use of the sedative.

Most states and agencies say ketamine may be administered when someone exhibits “excited delirium” or agitation, which is typically associated with chronic drug abuse, mental illness or both.

Even if “excited delirium” was a mental health condition recognized by a large number of medical and mental health entities and governing bodies (spoiler alert: it isn’t), police officers aren’t qualified to make diagnoses and recommend sedatives after limited interactions with people they’re trying to arrest. But government bodies have already issued this permission slip to cops and they use it as often as they can. It’s a diagnosis that rarely comes from anyone but a law enforcement officer or official.

The drug is only safe when deployed in controlled settings by healthcare professionals. Even then, there may be complications due to preexisting conditions. Turning it into a tool of arrest tradecraft eliminates all the expertise and replaces it with expedience. It may not go wrong every time. But it goes wrong often enough — and with deadly consequences — that no one should feel comfortable allowing law enforcement and EMS crews to make off-the-cuff decisions about its use.

There were 902 reported instances of Colorado paramedics administering ketamine from 2018 to 2020, and almost 17% had complications, including cardiac arrest and oxygen deprivation, the state health department said.

If it increases the chances of death, everyone involved should steer clear of it. EMS personnel are supposed to be lifesavers, not deathbringers. The same goes for cops. Just because someone’s uncooperative doesn’t mean they need to be subjected to something that could kill them. That a 17% failure rate hasn’t slowed this practice down shows how little cops and their first responder buddies care about the lives of people in handcuffs.

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Comments on “Cops And Paramedics Are Still Killing Arrestees By Shooting Them Up With Ketamine”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Michael says:

While we should certainly be critical of law enforcement officers telling paramedics to inject a sedative, this seems to be a problem with paramedics being educated on who can tell them to forcibly "treat" someone.

A paramedic being told to do anything other than provide medical assistance should be telling the police no.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There was a nurse in a hospital that told a leo, while on duty in the hospital, that she was not allowed to do what he requested … and received the typical treatment given to those who do not immediately comply.

But it is the medical professional that lacks adequate training, wow – are you for real?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"No you could not. That would be victim blaming."

Only if being a medical emergency responder did not entail, as part of the job role, being threatened and coerced by heavily armed thugs.

It would be victim blaming if the ER or paramedic held a job where it would reasonably come as an abominable surprise if they were intimidated into harming their patient by a looming or coercive law enforcement officer and subsequently the job role does not hold "nerves and balls of steel while under threat" as a mandatory prerequisite.

Surely you aren’t blaming the officer of the law, this paragon of Truth and Justice, this Vanguard of the American Way, this Righteous Fist of the Law and claiming they were the ones guilty of wrongdoing?

/s, just so we’re clear on that.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Simon Jester (profile) says:

<scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

"McClain was killed for the crime of being suspicious in public…"

Once again underlining the promotion by cops of "suspicious" as a synonym for "black." When was the last time we heard of a white guy bein’ ketamined to death by paramedics under orders by cops?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: <scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

"When was the last time we heard of a white guy bein’ ketamined to death by paramedics under orders by cops?"

If there was any doubt, we learned all we needed to learn from Kenosha. Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back in front of his children because he might have been going back to his car to get a weapon. Kyle Rittenhouse shot several people with an illegal weapon, killing two, and not only did the cops pass by him on the street but he was allowed to go home to a different state and get arrested alive the following day.

Same police force, what could have been the difference? Oh yeah…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: <scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

The difference was Kyle did not resist, fight back, or disobey the police when they arrived to arrest him. He presented himself peacefully and adhered to the orders given to him by the police. Regardless of the legality of those orders, compliance with them saves more lives than just the color of my skin.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Another Kevin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Did not resist"

The cops put the lie to your statement by shouting conflicting orders. "Freeze" "Lie down on the ground right now". Lying down is failing to freeze. Freezing is failing to lie down. They get to shoot either way.

If I weren’t White, I’d be terrified every time I saw a cop. I have at least some minimal hearing loss. (One of the symptoms is hyperacusis. An order screamed in my ear is likely also to be unintelligible.) Even being White, I run the risk of being shot for failing to comply with an order that I couldn’t quite hear.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 <scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

"He knew he was perfectly safe since he was able to walk right past the cops at the time of the incident"

Before the incident. Unless I’ve been misled, he shared a drink with cops before he killed anyone, where there said they supported him, even though he was an out of state minor with an in state illegal weapon displayed to them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 <scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

"COMPLY …. And then Injuries are nonexistent"

Typical bootlicker response, but not one based in reality. There are many examples of black people either being shot while complying with police, or are shot before they even get a chance to try to comply. Usually combined with a corrupt police force who try lying about or covering up the incident before video footage proves them to be lying.

Not all of them die, but your "comply or die" argument is not only fascist, it’s a lie.

ericblair (profile) says:

Re: <scary>Black Equals Suspicious</scary>

I could only find references to ketamine use by police in Colorado and Minneapolis so it does not appear to widely used, thus there are few cases of anybody being dosed. I did find on first search a case of a white guy getting OD’d with it in Minneapolis by an EMS for the crime of being Type 1 diabetic


no-knock warrants however are common but you never heard of Duncan Lemp. Being white did not help him. But it apparently did ensure that his murder by the Montgomery County MD Guesstopo was not "news". 6 months after the kill and all info is concealed, his parents were threatened with arrest if they dared to protest his killing. Because of Gov. Larry’s Lockdown. Judicial Watch is suing but that won’t be on the news either.

Boy that White Skin Privilege gets you cuts in line for everything!

Anonymous Coward says:

I thought we were advanced

It’s 2020. I thought we were advanced, intelligent, and futuristic. By now we should have a way/weapon/tool to physically restrain people without severely injuring or killing them. Something more precise than a stun gun. Something that would lock a persons arms by their side so that they can’t aim a weapon back at the cops (or anyone else nearby). "Necessity is the mother of invention", right?
Unfortunately, our police only know how to de-escalate a situation by using their guns.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: I thought we were advanced

"By now we should have a way/weapon/tool to physically restrain people without severely injuring or killing them."

The police have plenty of those. The standard US nightstick is essentially a tonfa, a weapon literally built for joint locks and takedowns. Handcuffs exist and have a long record of high efficiency. Most cops carry pepper spray and possess tasers.

Barring all else a squad of four well-built officers with close combat training have no excuse for not being able to simply wrestle an unarmed suspect to the ground.

…and yet an all too popular way of dealing with a suspect they aren’t even suspecting of anything in particular runs the gamut of the armed response of five officers emptying their clips into a "suspect" they already beat comatose to the "knee to the throat" in broad daylight.

And now, apparently, it’s been determined that you don’t need the waiting period of a trial, appeal process, death row stay and final meal before lethal injection is administered.

The irony is that this is the same nation which condemned Kevorkian for building a suicide machine…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I thought we were advanced

"Hell, many countries manage without the cops having any guns at all.."

Yeah, the fact that most of the rest of the G20 manage to hold a police force which enforces the law using peelian principle is one of those things US law enforcement would rather not hear about.

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that US police killings exceed the actual murder rates in many other nations. And when it comes to proportion of people killed by police per capita you have to go to war-torn hellholes in the third world before you find a similar per capita headcount created by law enforcement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I thought we were advanced

And when it comes to proportion of people killed by police per capita you have to go to war-torn hellholes in the third world before you find a similar per capita headcount created by law enforcement.

Well duh. The US is a war-torn hellhole in the third world.

Only the idiots who need a yesman screaming from the mountain tops how "great" they are believe otherwise.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Probably not the only slight

I wonder what the chances are that those injected with ketamine (or their estate or family) are later billed for the injection? I also wonder what the markup on the billing is? Going a bit further, shouldn’t the police force that orders the injection be the ones liable for the cost, since those injections don’t seem to be medically necessary?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Honest, we have no idea why people keep dying around us...'

Most states and agencies say ketamine may be administered when someone exhibits “excited delirium” or agitation, which is typically associated with chronic drug abuse, mental illness or both.

Or, you know, being in the presence of someone who is able to murder you on the spot, belonging to a profession with a long history of doing exactly that and facing zero consequences for doing so.

I’m not black and even I would be ‘agitated’ were I standing in front of someone who could at any moment decide that they ‘feared for their life’ and murder me simply because they could, add in choke-holds that can and have killed people, being pepper sprayed and/or tazed, and threats of further assault and someone would have to be willfully blind and in denial to think that people in general and especially anyone not ivory white don’t have very real, very valid reasons to be nervous or ‘agitated’ when around police that have absolutely nothing to do with drug use or mental illness.

Everyone involved in this, from the goons in blue to the paramedics deserve to be fired, investigated and charged with attempted/successful murder as appropriate, and barred from ever working in their respective professions for the rest of their lives. A cop who can’t deal with someone who’s ‘agitated’ without drugging them has no business working a job where that’s a regular occasion, and a paramedic who’s willing to administer dangerous drugs simply because a non-medial professional told them to has shown themselves to be wildly unfit for a position where people lives can depend on their ability to make smart decisions under pressure.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Sho Nuff says:

See below

It boils down to an abundance of insane people in positions of authority. Pure and simple. All trained and certified ad nauseam. But totally lacking in intelligence or common sense, let alone ethical considerations, compassion, fortitude, or sanity. Just last week a thirteen year old boy In Salt Lake City, undersized, mentally disturbed and acting out noisily, was shot multiple times from behind while running away from the police, frightened.

Note that hundreds of victims are shot multiple times, with gangs of killer cops firing every bullet in their magazines at their targets. One guy was shot over thirty times.

This is not real police work. This is organized, legalized murder with cops choking a man to death because selling 50 cents worth of cigarettes in New York, shooting and killing a man for riding a bIke without a light on his bicycle in Salt Lake City, then closing a Main Street for hours while “investigating.”

Again in Salt Lake City, shooting and killing a man by a cop called about a man snow shoveling his neighbor’s driveway because the woman did not recognize the long time resident, a musician. The cop arrived and escalated the situation by aggressive behavior leading to killing the man angered by the cop’s behavior.

Again in Salt Lake City a teenage boy with a gun was shot multiple times near the Catholic cathedral because his girlfriend reported he had a gun. It sounded like a machine gun (I heard the shots.). His mother asked why they had to shoot him so many times.

One could go on and on… thousands of incidents. The response samo samo – training and other buzzwords. No accountability or responsibility. The bosses, trainers, just as guilty as killer cops, many of whom psychos fresh from killing fields of foreign wars (highly trained).

There are many good police officers. One suspects they are becoming outnumbered by their police union backed asset forfeiture (aka: stealing) thug comrades such as an Orange County California female deputy sheriff (earning $240,000 a year, by the way) stealing a debit card from a perp and giving it to her son. Reported by the Orange County Register yesterday.

ENOUGH! Reform is desperately needed. From the top down. We are civilized in name only.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'Unless you want someone dead, don't call the cops on them'

It is disgusting that so many people have yet to learn that you should only call the police on someone that you are willing to see dead on the ground due to the homicidal tendencies of police, and sad that so many people have to learn that lesson the hard way by seeing exactly that.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Nurlip (profile) says:

This is exactly why cops should have guns locked in their vehicles rather than on their belt. I want them to be safe absolutely and they are the vast majority of the time so yes when they feel the need to pull a deadly weapon it should be an event noted in the logs and even immediately, automatically reported to dispatch. They can carry tasers and basically everything else they always have with them but until a situation is escalated to deadly force they should not be able to employ it.
Yes this will make many police upset and may no longer feel safe doing the job. They are welcome to leave. They are the ‘bad apples’ who feel the need to deploy deadly force immediately in order to feel safe and they are the ones who need to be gone so reform can start.
A cop without a gun on their waist is not as intimidating to paramedics, especially when getting a gun out after the EMS arrives would be noted in the logs, would certainly make that event subject to scrutiny.
However if an EMS is giving twice as much as required, perhaps they simply should not have the drug at all…? A drug that results in complications 1/6 of the time it is used (in this circumstance) is as dangerous as hardcore illegal drugs. Why would that be in the truck at all? If it really needs to be there perhaps a similar solution to the guns locked in cop cars is necessary, lock it up and notify dispatch and the hospital automatically of it’s use and the dosage. That would make a lot of EMS hesitate to use it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can understand the argument for tasers, but doesn’t being able to inject someone imply that you already have control over them.

I feel like the biggest reason drugs would be used over proper restraints would be image. It is possible to quickly inject someone when no one is looking. If instead they used a straight-jacket, people will be asking if that is excessive.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Another Kevin (profile) says:


Ketamine has a narrow therapeutic window. It induces dissociation and hallucinations in many. Is this what we want to use in the field on someone experiencing what is perhaps a psychotic episode?

If I recall correctly, the psych hospitals use either a fast-acting benzodiazepine such as midazolam, or else a combination of a typical antipsychotic + a sedating antihistamine (such as haloperidol + promethazine) Flumazenil is kept on hand in the event of benzodiazepine toxicity. Some have ketamine as a second option if haloperidol is too much of a risk (for example, a patient known to be on multiple Q-T prolonging agents or with previous episodes of torsades des pointes.)

And to hell with the argument that the police and EMS can’t be held responsible because the victim was unusually sensitive to the drug. Look up the ‘eggshell skull rule.’ A tortfeasor must take his victims as he finds them.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Richard M (profile) says:

We know the cops are out of control but..

The cops are not going to change until society forces them to do so and there are too many people in this country begging to get down on their knees and blow them so not going to happen anytime soon.

However there is still an available fix. Any ems driver who injects someone without a doctor’s approval is automatically fired for practicing medicine without a license and loses their certification.

The spinless ems drivers would stop pretty quick.

Anonymous Coward says:

OK, mileage will vary, I worked in the business several years ago, I’m not a paramedic, was there for a technical project, and all of that.

So, I worked for an EMS Agency. At least in the state I worked in, the paramedic would lose their license if they did something because a cop told them to. Paramedics have strict protocols which are driven by a MD whose license they practice under.

So, a cop can’t tell a paramedic what to do, period. I guess if they pulled their gun on the paramedic, but otherwise, no way this happens.

Second, the idea that this can’t be investigated, is ridiculous. The investigation would occur around the paramedic and the company they worked for. There would be documentation on the call, what they did, etc. Hell, you could even inventory the ketamine the ambulance had.

So, this all sounds cray-cray to me, with two exceptions. Exception one is a medical director who allows its use, by paramedics, under his license. Said MD would most likely lose his license to practice medicine. Exception two is a dumbfuck state that allows it.

Honestly, I had no idea this was going on, but like I said, I’ve been out of that game for several years, and really, I was barely in it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

This is basically malicious and planned execution of "troublesome blacks".

They KNOW 100% that the skinny guy on the ground isn’t a 500lb fat man, but they give him the dose for a 500lb guy anyway.

A MASSIVE overdose designed to kill there and then. No ifs, but buts. deliberate intended murder as much as if they’d shot someone in the head for not carrying their driving license.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The ‘funny’ thing is that even if they honestly didn’t that wouldn’t improve the situation, as if you’re dealing with a drug where knowing how much the other person weighs can literally be the difference between life and death for that person and you inject them without that knowledge then you are at best homicidally negligent, and and as such should be prohibited from handing out so much as aspirin from that point for the rest of your life.

Whether they murdered someone intentionally or just ‘accidentally’ they should never be allowed to work in the medical field again, the only difference is what charges would be warranted on top of that.

goodski (profile) says:

Ketamine and PCP share the same mechanism

I am not a physician but I teach an undergraduate psychopharmacology class. I teach that PCP (angel dust) and ketamine share a common mechanism. I find it remarkable that law enforcement would administer a drug in the same family as one often blamed for outrageous and unpredictable behavior necessitating overwhelming force (e.g. when suspects are “dusted”). Ketamine and PCP act as anesthetics rendering restraint techniques taught to law enforcement useless, and can also induce a state resembling psychosis. Although it is used as a veterinary anesthetic, is this really used medically a first line drug for sedating suspected criminals? Why?

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