At police urging, Minnesota paramedics injected suspects with powerful tranquilizer, report says

Police in Minneapolis have been ordered to “never suggest or demand” that paramedics sedate a suspect during a police call, following a recent report that such treatment of suspects had spiked in recent years.

The May 18 order from police Cmdr. Todd Sauvageau says that decisions on sedating suspects are to be made by Hennepin County paramedics, not city police officers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

The police policy order coincided with the completion of a report by the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OCPR), which showed that paramedics’ injections of ketamine into suspects during police calls had increased from three in 2012 to 62 in 2017, the newspaper reported.

Ketamine is considered a powerful tranquilizer and is classified as a “date rape drug” in the Minneapolis police manual, according to the Star-Tribune. In some cases, it can stop a person’s heart or breathing, the report said.

Police officers regularly ordered paramedics to administer ketamine, the OCPR report says. It then questions why suspects received the drug before being transported to a hospital, “given the immediate effects on breathing and heart function that the drug induces.”

The OCPR report drew conflicting reactions from local officials, the Star-Tribune story said.

Hennepin Healthcare EMS Medical Director Jeffrey Ho and Minnesota Poison Control System Medical Director Jon Cole dismissed the findings as a “reckless use of anecdotes and partial snapshots of interactions with police, and incomplete information and statistics to draw uninformed and incorrect conclusions.”

Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo credited the report for helping to clarify the department’s relationship with paramedics.

Mayor Jacob Frey said it was necessary to clarify that relationship.

“Our policy should be clear,” he said. “Cops shouldn’t direct medical professionals on health-related issues, and medical professionals shouldn’t listen to them.”

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