Less than 10 seconds after police approached David Washington on May 4th, 2015, he was both tasered and pepper-sprayed for “refusing to comply with the demands of an officer.” In those same 10 seconds, a second officer had pulled a firearm and aimed it at Washington to force compliance. The man was slowly complying with their demands to get out of the car because he was having a CVA (also known as a ‘stroke’). Officers would later claim that they were trying to help. He was pepper-sprayed in the face for 8 seconds, cursed at, and the violent thugs with badges threatened to murder him. The police officers never even considered why the man was ignoring their assaults and death threats. “Get out the car or I’m going to fuckin smoke you!”, shouted one police officer. The confused man was being pepper-sprayed and had a gun in his face, and he may have continually ignored huge threats to his safety due to his altered mental status.
In June of 2008, police officers brutally beat Ernest Griglen, a man who did not comply with their demands quickly enough. He was beaten long after he was on the ground and incapacitated. Officers would later claim he was resisting arrest. Before, during, and after the beating in which he sustained injuries that required him to be put on a ventilator because he could not breathe on his own, Ernest Griglen was in a hypoglycemic coma due to his diabetes. Had EMS been called to the scene, a paramedic easily could have discovered his illness, placed an IV, and restored his glucose to normal levels, likely returning him to a perfectly healthy state. Instead of helping him in a medical emergency, police put Ernest in the hospital for a week. Although the distinguished and highly trained and armed police officers claimed to be afraid of Griglen, the critically ill man had an altered mental status and had recently had his leg amputated. If multiple armed police officers are so deathly afraid of a severely hypoglycemic amputee that they brutalize him for no reason, maybe they need more training.
In 2016, the New York Post reported that police in Kansas tasered a 91-year-old man with Alzheimer’s, knocking him to the ground face first and causing him to cry from the pain. The victim was a nursing home patient, which generally means that he could not care for himself due to his altered mental status due to advanced dementia caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. His crime? Refusing to go to the doctor. The man was not a threat to the police officers.
On November 8th of 2014, another diabetic man was beaten viciously, tasered, and pepper-sprayed by police for driving while hypoglycemic. Carl Leadholm was also beaten with batons, “as hard as I could swing” according to the offending officer. The honorable police officers said that they thought that he was drunk. The driver was a Mormon and never touched alcohol in his life, but that’s irrelevant. Police officers do not have the right to physically punish people for driving while drunk – or for any other crime. According to the law, only a court can convict and punish people. Instead of rendering medical assistance, police officers beat Leadholm so badly that the city settled the case for $820,000 – presumably of taxpayer money. This all could have been avoided if police officers focused a little less on physically punishing people and considered that some people inevitably develop an illness that causes them to have an altered mental status.
In June of 2017, Miguel Feliz suffered a major accident (as a result of a police chase) causing his car and his body to light on fire. Feliz frantically escaped the car and rolled on the floor in an effort to extinguish the flames before he burned to death. Police officers ran up to him with guns drawn and began to kick him in the head, as this video shows. The man may have had a head injury and he may have been traumatized after surviving a major car accident in which he was lit on fire. Making matters worse, the police were not even beating the man who they intended to beat – they had the wrong man! Police officers brutally beat him before thinking about any of these other possibilities and before considering the multiple reasons that may have caused him to have an altered mental status.
Vanessa Marques, an actress on the hit TV show ‘ER’ was shot and killed by police after suffering from multiple seizures, according to Variety.com. Marques was also known to be going through some ‘mental problems’. Police shot her after being on the scene for 90 minutes according to Variety, paramedics, and a mental health clinician. Despite being with her for an hour and a half, police allowed her to gain access to a BB gun. She was shot by police officers when she allegedly pointed it at one of them. This situation may not have been avoidable, but training police to recognize that a person may have an altered mental status may have helped. Perhaps she could have received medical treatment instead of a death sentence.
As EMTs are taught and as many laypeople know, seizures are severely damaging to the brain. The uncontrollable convulsions take a toll on the brain, causing the ‘postictal state’, which could last for minutes to hours after a seizure. Though every individual’s postictal state is unique, it commonly causes the person to be unconscious, irritable, confused, or to suffer from some type of mental/mood disturbance for that period of time. As a paramedic, I have had numerous patients remain unconscious for up to a few hours after seizing. I have had postictal patients violently resist our efforts to treat them. Police officers ought to understand this well-known medical scenario. If they don’t understand how to handle these potentially life-threatening situations, they should be eager to learn about the postictal state and its associated altered mental status.
There is a multitude of examples of innocent people being harmed, killed, or otherwise punished by zealous, aggressive, or criminal police officers. When drivers are deaf, officers often assume the worst when their questions are not answered verbally as quickly as they’d expect. This often leads to cops fatally shooting innocent nonviolent drivers who happen to be deaf. These incidents occur regularly throughout the US. As civilized humans, we must address this unacceptable norm.
Below is an example of legislation that could mitigate this issue by introducing training, prevention, and accountability to law enforcement in New Hampshire:
Amend Title VII to add Chapter 105-D
Definitions: For the purposes of this bill, ‘patient’ shall refer to any individual stopped, detained, questioned, arrested, or otherwise engaged with a law enforcement officer who does not immediately and appropriately respond to the officers.
For the purposes of this bill, ‘officer’ shall refer to any individual who is involved in law enforcement as a paid member or volunteer and includes all forms of law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to police departments, sheriff’s departments, Fish & Game, State police, and any other person executing any laws on behalf of the State government or any other governmental entity.
Whereas police throughout the US often use force against drivers who do not immediately comply before considering whether the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffering from a medical emergency such as a stroke, hypoglycemia, head injury, or another medical emergency that might affect their mental status:
In order to help ensure that the safety of the public remains the ultimate priority of the State, all police officers operating in the state of New Hampshire shall accurately and honestly complete the below checklist immediately upon approaching a vehicle that they have stopped (traffic stop).
No ticket shall be given to a driver until all of the below questions (henceforth referred to as the ‘AMS checklist’) have been answered by the police officer administering the ticket.
In cases where an officer believes with good reason that the driver ignoring his commands places the officer and/or others on the scene in immediate danger of death, the officer shall consider the questions below before using force against the individual. Officers shall flee the scene if they feel unsafe. Failure to obey commands immediately shall no longer be an acceptable justification for killing or hurting an innocent person. All persons are legally considered innocent until convicted in a court of law.
In the very beginning of every ticket/traffic stop, every police officer shall check off the following boxes:
Does the driver have any signs or symptoms of alcohol or drug use?
Does the driver have any signs or symptoms of a stroke?
Does the driver have any signs or symptoms of hypoglycemia?
Is the driver possibly experiencing any effects of head trauma? (if the vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident, you must check ‘yes’)
If any of the above questions are answered in the affirmative (if ‘yes’ has been checked), no officer shall engage with any individual and any engagement shall immediately be discontinued. EMS shall be called to the scene, and every individual in the stopped vehicle must be assessed/and or transported to a hospital emergency department by the EMS ambulance crew that administers 911 EMS care for the area in which the incident occurs. A PCR (patient care report) must be completed for every individual who did not immediately and appropriately respond to the officer’s commands. An officer who encourages or coerces a patient to sign an RMA and/or refuse medical assessment, treatment, or transport shall be guilty of a class A felony and shall be terminated immediately.
Individuals who are determined to present an extreme danger shall be transported to the hospital with an officer in the ambulance, with handcuffs on the patient if necessary. The officer(s) that pulled the vehicle over (initiated or were involved in the traffic stop at any point in time) shall not be the same officer(s) that transport the patient to the hospital in the ambulance. Upon EMS arrival on the scene, the EMS crew assumes authority over the patient(s). No sick or injured person shall be transported by police or transported to anywhere other than a hospital emergency department. No patient shall be punished physically by any police officer.
An officer who causes injury to a driver or other individual during a traffic stop or other encounter shall be guilty of a Class A Felony. All relevant compensation to the injured person shall be paid for by the offending officer, not by any governmental entity, insurance, or by any other fund.
The chief law enforcement officer of each department shall arrange a training session of at least 2 hours for every member of the department, during which an actively working emergency medicine physician (MD or DO), emergency medicine physician assistant (PA), or paramedic (NRP) shall train every member of the department and certify them (on ‘recognizing the basics of AMS’) to recognize the signs and symptoms necessary to complete the AMS checklist. Officers shall have 60 days to obtain this training and shall attend the training class once every year. No officer shall be allowed to perform their duties or earn a paycheck without being current on their AMS checklist training.
A police officer who neglects to honestly and accurately complete the AMS checklist shall be suspended from work without pay for one shift. The second such infraction shall constitute a class A felony and result in termination of the officer and a lifelong prohibition from working as a law enforcement officer in the State of New Hampshire.
This bill shall take effect immediately after its passage.
Note: signs and symptoms of a stroke include: altered mental status, altered mood, one-sided weakness, general weakness, altered vision, altered sensation/numbness, slurred speech, inability to speak, incoherent speech, headache, dizziness, seizures, irregular breathing, unsteady gait, one or two dilated, unreactive, or constricted pupils, and other signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) include all of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Sweating, anxiety, restlessness, shaking, and other signs or symptoms may also be present.
Signs and symptoms of head trauma include all of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Severe and moderate head trauma can be present and may be life-threatening despite no physical/external signs of injury being present.
Signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol use may include all of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. An odor of the alcohol or drug may or may not be present.
Many other illnesses, injuries, and acute and chronic conditions may cause an altered mental status. Officers shall keep in mind that a person who does not respond appropriately to commands does not deserve to be harmed, especially due to the likelihood that they are not in total control of their mental functions at the time of the encounter.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.