Minneapolis Police Requested That EMS Workers Give People Ketamine, Even When They Didn't Want It

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Here’s a truly nightmarish report about how the Minneapolis Police Department pushed EMTs to administer ketamine to people—some of whom didn’t want it, and in some cases when no crime was actually being committed—courtesy of the Star-Tribune:

Minneapolis police officers have repeatedly requested over the past three years that Hennepin County medical responders sedate people using the powerful tranquilizer ketamine, at times over the protests of those being drugged, and in some cases when no apparent crime was committed, a city report shows.

On multiple occasions, in the presence of police, Hennepin Healthcare EMS workers injected suspects of crimes and others who already appeared to be restrained, according to the report, and the ketamine caused heart or breathing failure, requiring them to be medically revived. Several people given ketamine had to be intubated.


The findings come from an investigation by the Office of Police Conduct Review, and around the time the report was completed back in May—it still hasn’t been released to the public, although the Star-Tribune obtained a copy—police commander Todd Sauvageau (who leads the department’s Leadership and Organizational Development division, according to its website) issued an order saying that the police can’t request that EMS workers give ketamine injections to sedate people anymore. Seems like a bit of a no-brainer!

According to the report, the number of documented ketamine injections during police calls in Minneapolis in 2012 was 3; last year, it was 62. “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 says, according to the Star-Tribune.

Here’s one particularly awful case, involving a man who “appeared to be in the throes of a mental health crisis” (emphasis mine):

Four Minneapolis police officers and two EMS personnel responded to the incident and decided to sedate the man, according to the report authors, who reviewed body camera footage of the incident. Upon seeing the needle, the man, who is not named but described as 5 feet 3 to 5 feet 5 with a light build, said he did not want the shot. “Whoa, whoa that’s not cool!” he pleaded. “I don’t need that!”

Regardless, the man was injected with the drug two times and secured to a chair, the report states. Shortly after, he became nonverbal and unintelligible, prompting one officer to remark, “He just hit the K-hole,” a slang term for the intense delirium brought on by ketamine.

When the man began to regain consciousness, the officer asked the EMS responder — all unnamed in the report — how much more ketamine he had with him, according to the report.

“I can draw more,” said the EMS staff.

“You’re my favorite,” replied another EMS officer.

They injected him with another dose of ketamine.

“We’ll have to end up putting a [breathing] tube in,” the officer stated.

On the way to the hospital, the man lost consciousness and stopped breathing, according to the report.

He regained his pulse and began breathing again sometime later at the hospital.

And here’s another one:

In a separate case detailed in the report, police sprayed an intoxicated woman in downtown Minneapolis with mace, and she appeared to have an asthma attack. The woman, who was not actively resisting police, asked for an asthma pump. Instead they handcuffed her to a stretcher and gave her ketamine, the report said.

Shortly before the body camera video cut out, an EMS worker asked, “What does ketamine do to asthmatics?”

In this case, it stopped the woman’s breathing, according to the report. She was resuscitated later at the hospital.

Despite these findings, Hennepin County EMS director Jeffrey Ho and Minnesota Poison Control System medical director Jon Cole wrote in a statement included in the report that the change in policy “will prevent the saving of lives by promoting the concept of allowing people to exhaust themselves to death.”

Not everyone in the city leadership felt that way, however. “That policy really defines and clarifies that we do not want our officers providing recommendations or suggestions to EMS personnel,” Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo told the Star-Tribune. “Our policy should be clear,” Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey added. “Cops shouldn’t direct medical professionals on health-related issues, and medical professionals shouldn’t listen to them.”


Chalk this up to more evidence that increasing increasing police oversight is a very good thing.

News editor, Splinter