Minneapolis Oversight Board Says Police Department Should Ditch 'Excited Delirium' Training

from the GTFO dept

Excited delirium isn’t a medical condition. It’s just post-death rationalization that shifts the culpability for deaths at the hands of law enforcement to the corpses the cops created. This supposed medical diagnosis didn’t reach critical mass until the introduction of one of the most infamous “less-lethal” weapons ever created: the Taser.

Taser is a cattle prod for humans. But it has never been extensively tested on humans for obvious reasons: it has the capacity to be lethal. Taser has since rebranded as Axon, but its legacy lives on. And some of that legacy is the mainstream law enforcement adoption of “excited delirium” as the x factor in officer-involved killings that involve multiple or prolonged deployments of Taser’s modified stun gun.

Taser may have distanced itself from its only-slightly-less-lethal weapon, but there’s no escaping the death toll. And there’s no escaping Taser’s culpability in these deaths — a company that has lawyered itself up to the teeth and hired a shitload of medical experts to find any other reason than the most obvious for deaths in custody. Let’s not forget what inspired Taser and (kind of) gave it its product name: Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, a young adult novel that featured a main character who carried a weapon that was anything but “less lethal.”

Of foremost notice is Swift’s invention of the electric rifle, a gun which fires bolts of electricity. The electric rifle can be calibrated to different levels of range, intensity and lethality; it can shoot through solid walls without leaving a hole, and is powerful enough to kill a rampaging whale, as in their steamer trek to Africa. With the electric rifle, Tom and friends bring down elephants, rhinoceroses, and buffalo, and save their lives several times in pitched battle with the red pygmies. It also can discharge a globe of light that was described as being able to maintain itself, like ball lightning, making hunting at night much safer in the dark of Africa.

“Pitched battles with red pygmies.” “Making hunting … safer in the dark of Africa.” Hmm. Problematic, to say the least. From those beginnings flows a marketing wing that got this weapon in the hands of law enforcement all over the world — one that had the capacity to kill but was sold as “less than lethal.” This marketing led cops to believe it could be deployed as often or as long as possible without killing people. But it did kill people, and when it did, Taser sent lawyers, NDAs, and its own medical experts to combat lawsuits against law enforcement officers.

Its lawyers and medical experts arrived in court with the novel theory that “excited delirium” had actually caused these deaths. The experts pointed to problems officers encountered subduing people and made the most of any illegal substances found in the systems of victims of police violence.

Years after the damage has been done, things may be changing. There’s enough criticism of the “excited delirium” medical theory — one not accepted by most medical regulation and oversight boards — that police oversight entities are starting to push back. In Minneapolis, Minnesota — ground zero for the latest nationwide protests against police brutality — a police oversight board has stated its unwillingness to allow officers to continue blaming police violence victims for their own deaths.

This is notable because Tasers weren’t involved in the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd (suspected of nothing more than passing a counterfeit $20 bill) by police officer Derek Chauvin. The killing here was committed by Officer Chauvin, who placed his knee on the neck of the black man in perhaps the most unsubtle depiction of systemic police racism engaged in by a cop. He did this for more than nine minutes — and for more than three minutes after another officer failed to detect a pulse.

The excited delirium theory was in play as Chauvin defended himself in court. His lawyer suggested this unrecognized “medical condition” contributed more to Floyd’s death than the asphyxiation caused by the officer’s knee to his neck. This faux medical condition has also been used by Minneapolis cops to suggest the use of ketamine by EMS responders — a tactic that has led to even more in-custody deaths.

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission — with input from the medical community — is strongly suggesting the PD walk away from this oft-abused excuse for in-custody deaths, citing both its questionable history as a medical condition as well as its tendency to be deployed to excuse the killing of minorities.

A Minneapolis police oversight board has recommended the police department replace what the board calls “outdated training” about excited delirium, a controversial medical diagnosis that police say can give people “superhuman” strength.

The diagnosis has not been recognized by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association or World Health Organization, but has been widely used by police to justify force and explain deaths of people in custody.

[…]

Abigail Cerra, chair of the PCOC, wrote to Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo recommending that MPD re-educate officers on the issue, especially given the city will be hiring more than 100 police officers in 2022.

Good. And this request should receive no pushback from the Minneapolis Police Department. I mean, it probably will but the PD and the medical professionals contributing to the PD’s training have already disavowed use of this “diagnosis.”

Dr. Nicholas Simpson, chief medical director at Hennepin EMS, told the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission earlier this month that Hennepin EMS and the Minnesota Department of Human Services are no longer using “excited delirium” in their practice and education. Hennepin EMS physicians have been revising medical training materials for law enforcement officers, including the Minneapolis Police Department.

According to the mayor, the PD has removed “excited delirium” training from officer education courses. If true, then the PCOC’s request will be adopted without argument. If untrue, the PD will start pushing back. Documents posted by the PCOC include “excited delirium” training presentations — documents the Minneapolis PD has yet to confirm have been removed from its training programs.

Let’s hope they have. The presentations argue that “excited delirium” sufferers — ones most often diagnosed after being declared dead following interactions with police officers — have both “superhuman strength” and the tendency to die at the drop of a Taser/knee. The sooner cops stop pretending “excited delirium” is nothing more than a convenient post-facto justification for unjustified deadly force, the sooner more people with start surviving their “interactions” with law enforcement.

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Comments on “Minneapolis Oversight Board Says Police Department Should Ditch 'Excited Delirium' Training”

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

The strangest of superpowers

So just to sum up, ‘excited delirium’ supposedly grants superhuman strength yet is frequently fatal to those that suffer from it, providing police not one but two excuses for why someone ended up dead shortly after encountering them from ‘I feared for my life’ to ‘Honestly I have no idea why they died in front of me’, and last but certainly not least it only seems to crop up when police are in the area.

Yeah no, I can’t imagine why medical associations and doctors the world over aren’t tripping over themselves to certify this as a legitimate medical condition, from the sounds of it it’s not only incredibly dangerous but likely breaks multiple previously held beliefs about biology by being tied to proximity of a particular profession.

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

I honestly am still waiting for someone to explain how cops can order EMS techs to administer ketamine.

I know one of the stories they claimed it was part of a study, but never offered up who was supervising it, how they could get informed consent from detained citizens, what medical ethics body green lighted the idea of injecting random meds on police demand.

The fact that this is happening in more than 1 state & has a bodycount attached to it and no ones done anything to stop it really makes you wonder if the DOJ has already awarded QI to all of the parties involved because they haven’t managed to off white folk yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Any real "ordering" is something that occurred miles away, years previously, when emergency medical services were convinced that sedation should be expanded in emergency medical care, and began training their employees in such. This is not at all limited to people detained by cops or in the presence of cops, it’s been a general thread running through the medical community for a while. Use during police encounters is actually quite late to the party.

There have been several studies surrounding use of ketamine specifically, and other sedatives, in emergency medical care. When used appropriately, they do actually provide a net benefit to patients. However, they also provide a net benefit to doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc. which has lead to an unfortunate "relaxing" of the use guidelines (at least in practice).

Informed consent is always a thorny problem in this context, because by its nature a medical emergency isn’t conducive to a patient’s ability to consent to anything at all. Indeed, emergency medical services are largely defined by their possession of waivers to informed consent of some procedures, where aquiring it is infeasible. There have been several clinical studies on emergency sedative use over the last decade which ran afoul of their waivers and found themselves under the lens of the FDA. It’s a depressingly re-occuring theme in emergency medicine research, without really a solution in sight. patients who are well enough to consent are rarely good proxies for patients who are not, and there’s no consistent way to verify their prior ability to consent after the fact.

Subsequently, many states began introducing waivers expanding the allowable use of sedatives by EMS outside of hospitals to include responding EMTs. This is where the cops started coming in. Being lazy shits, many saw the benefit in not having to manually restrain people. And responding EMTs, already used to expanding sedative use in hospital settings through their training, and having historically relied on police to help identify the main risks to patients, are an easy target to cajole, trick, or pressure into unwarranted sedative use.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

While I likewise agree with the idea of unions in general to act as a balancing force police unions in america at least are probably the top example of unions gone bad and serve as an excellent argument against them, at least in some professions. That out of the way…

"Warrior training" has been banned in Minneapolis since 2019 (and I think the state of Minnesota), at least as far as public funding goes. The police union moved to offer it at their expense to off-duty cops.

Bloody hell is that not a good look. ‘These programs are so toxic the city prohibited them from being taken, so we’ll cover the slack so no officer is ever left thinking that violence isn’t the answer.’

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Warrior training" has been banned in Minneapolis since 2019 (and I think the state of Minnesota), at least as far as public funding goes. The police union moved to offer it at their expense to off-duty cops.

So it has not been banned.
Just removed from the official training.
"Banned" would mean that cops getting or offering this training get penalized, ideally fired. This is definitely not happening.

Bloof (profile) says:

People underestimate how dangerous and contagious Excited Delirium is! Cops all across America are putting their lives on the line trying to stop it spreading, which is why almost all those diagnosed with it die in their custody. It’s not like they and the corporation that makes tasers would invent a disease to avoid liability for homicides! Come on! It’s a very real condition. If the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that if you can trust anyone to take a pandemic seriously, it’s cops and corporations!

Anonymous Coward says:

the problem with excited delirium is that the name is not self-explanatory, and some of the cops do not understand why they need it in trainings, which are so long and boring anyway and need to be shortened to cope with the obviously struggling audience. If it was called "suspect suddenly dies and its nobody’s fault syndrome" for example, it would have stayed on the books.

Arijirija says:

be careful what you ask for ...

you just might get it. How many policemen have been recorded as dying from natural causes after being shot through the head with a .45? Or run over with a 2 ton truck? Or given a swimming lesson with cement shoes? I mean, everybody in Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill dies of natural causes!!!

"Excited Delirium" sounds just like that scenario.

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