robert dziekanski’s death: excessive force or excited delirium?

police officer mo cho used to hope paramedics arrived at some scenes before he did.

those were the “M-1s,” the calls involving mentally ill people.

“i had no idea what to do,” cho said.

that’s the beginning of an article by deedee correlltraining helps cops deal with mentally ill“.

did the RCMP at vancouver airport have that training when they shot robert dziekanski? it’s hard to imagine. according to the video, they never engaged with him, never tried to talk him down.

the idea to train police in this area came out of memphis in 1988 after police fatally shot a mentally ill young man.

according to the article, police there are learning not to go into such an emergency situation with a confrontational attitude. “they’re already in that state,” says one of the officers. “you have to bring yourself down to their level, as opposed to being badge-heavy. you talk to them, let them know everything will be ok, instead of saying, ‘obey what i have to say!’ ”

traditionally, police first order a person to comply. when that does not happen, more force is used. that’s exactly what happened in the dziekanski case.

however, that approach has been found to be counterproductive when dealing with people who are mentally ill. it does not appear that robert dziekanski had a diagnosis of mental illness. however, the thought that a mental illness was involved must have crossed someone’s mind, and it is impossible to understand why the officers did not first attempt to deal with him in a calm manner.

he didn’t speak english? so what. you can’t tell me that a) police don’t receive training in non-verbal communication and b) in a highly multicultural city like vancouver, police don’t know how to interact with someone who doesn’t speak english.

the autopsy hasn’t revealed anything conclusive. now the idea of “excited delirium syndrome” as a cause of death is being bandied about. whether that’s a useful train of thought to follow seems to be questionable.

in case you’re interested, here are some links to this supposed syndrome.

this document is a grand jury report in miami on the use of tasers, including a lengthy report on excited delirium syndrome and related conditions.

from a book on death in custody: “excited delirium accounts for 1% of our EDP (emotionally disturbed persons) cases and 99% of our headaches.” this comment, made some years ago at a new york city conference of police chiefs captures the managerial and legal concerns of this entity.

an emergency room expert:

regarding prone position – beware of patients with an excited (agitated) delirium – the factors (per stratton – amer jour emerg med) always associated with sudden death of patients requiring restraint include the following:
1) excited delirium = 100%
2) hobble restraint (a.k.a. total appendage restraint procedure, &
hog-tying) = 100%
3) prone position = 100%
4) forceful struggle against restraint = 100%

from a brief on in-custody deaths:

experts contend that maximal, prone restraint techniques can have suddenlethal consequences. this potential is increased in intoxicated, delirious, and/or violent individuals. law enforcement personnel should employ alternative restraint methods …

and finally, wikipedia on excited delirium

excited delirium is a controversial term used to explain deaths of individuals in police custody, in which the person being arrested, detained, or restrained is highly agitated and may be under the influence of stimulants. the term is not recognized in DSM-IV, but has been listed as the cause of death by some medical examiners.some civil-rights groups argue that the term is being used to absolve police of guilt, in overly restraining people, during arrests. the cause of death only appears where police are involved in restraining individuals.

eric balaban of the american civil liberties union said: “i know of no reputable medical organization ” certainly not the ama american medical association or the american psychological association that recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition.”

nathaniel jones: his death while in custody of cincinnati police was first attributed to excited delirium. in a lawsuit over the death of mr. jones, some facts related to excited delirium were disputed. the defendants in the trial court proceedings asserted that: 1) the decedent was resisting arrest; 2) that reasonable force was used in an attempt to restrain him; and 3) that excited delirium was the cause of death.

the plaintiffs claimed: 1) that the officers used excessive force; 2) that the decedent died from compressive asphyxia caused by police officers whose entire weight was on his body; 3) the decedent was not resisting but rather attempting to reposition his body so he could breathe. the trial court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated a claim of excessive force.

(this article can be found in the all women blogging and the 22nd brain blogging carnival)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *