California police department removes 'racist and unscientific' term from official communications

The police department hopes to become the 'most progressive transit law enforcement agency in the country'

Transportation police in California are now distancing themselves from a term that recent progressive studies have deemed "racist and unscientific."

The police force behind Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) – which services the San Francisco Bay Area – has removed the term "excited delirium" from their manuals and written reports. 

According to BART Police Department's (BPD) press release, the move is their next step towards becoming "the most progressive transit law enforcement agency in the country."

"Removing this terminology from the BPD policy manual is a meaningful step toward racial equity in policing at BART," BART's independent police auditor Russell Bloom said in a statement. "I and my team look forward to monitoring the implementation of this policy revision."

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San Jose, USA - May 10, 2016: San Francisco bart train at San Jose station on a sunny day. A few people are waiting in the background.

San Jose, USA - May 10, 2016: San Francisco bart train at San Jose station on a sunny day. A few people are waiting in the background.

"Excited delirium" - which is often used in police reports and not official medical diagnoses – describes a state where someone is extremely aggressive and distressed, usually while being restrained by an officer. It has been used by police departments frequently since the 1980s to describe in-custody deaths relating to asphyxia or cardiac arrest.

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Because the term is often used to describe in-custody deaths that could stem from police brutality, the term has been scrutinized by left-wing reformers. Progressive studies have argued that the term is disproportionally applied to Black and Brown people.

Oct. 19, 2013: A BART police officer on duty in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Oct. 19, 2013: A BART police officer on duty in Walnut Creek, Calif. (AP)

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization and the National Association of Medical Examiners have all rejected the use of the term as medically invalid.

A progressive nonprofit called Physicians for Human Rights went a step further and argued that the term "cannot be disentangled from its racist and unscientific origins," according to a March 2022 study. 

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Riders depart the BART station in Antioch, Calif., on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Riders depart the BART station in Antioch, Calif., on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

BPD's decision was likely influenced by outrage over the death of Angelo Quinto, a Navy veteran in Northern California who died in 2020 after his neck was allegedly knelt on by an officer for 5 minutes. His death was described as being a result of "excited delirium."