Excessive police violence evident in emergency care cases, say US doctors

December 24, 2008

Excessive police violence is evident in the types of injury and trauma emergency care doctors are treating in the US, indicates research published in Emergency Medicine Journal.

The findings are based on 315 responses to a representative survey of 393 academic emergency care doctors across the USA.

There are around 800,000 police (law enforcement) officers in the USA, and figures for 2002 show that just short of the 45 million people who had a face to face encounter with one, did so at the behest of the officer.

Almost all (99.8%) of respondents believed that the police use excessive force to arrest and detain suspects.

And a similar number (98%) confirmed that they had treated patients who they suspected had sustained injuries/bruising inflicted by police officers.

Around two thirds of respondents said they had treated two or more such cases a year.

Doctors working in public facilities were more than four times as likely to report treating patients who had been the victims of excessive police force than doctors working at university or community teaching emergency care departments.

The most frequently cited type of injury was blunt trauma inflicted by fists or feet. Around three out of four cited overly tight handcuffs.

Seven out of 10 (71%) doctors said they had not reported these incidents and over 95% said they had no departmental policies on reporting their suspicions.

A high proportion of respondents (94%) said they had not been given any training on how to handle such cases.

But around 70% felt they should be reporting incidents of this kind, while just under half felt it should be a statutory requirement to do so, as it is for child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse.

The authors point out that the police do sometimes have to use coercive force, ranging across a spectrum from voice commands through physical restraint and use of chemical sprays, batons, and dogs, to lethal firearms.

Most police departments do not keep records of how often coercive force is used in confrontational situations, say the authors, but estimates suggest that this applies in around 8% of encounters.

How often it escalates to excessive force is not known, they add. But the World Health Organization classifies Injury and death caused by excessive force at the hands of police officers a breach of human rights.

Source: British Medical Journal

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3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 24, 2008
As a paramedic in Peoria, Illinois, I have seen too many victims of police violence. When you question why the victim and the officers stories are different, the cop usually gets in your face and barks %u201CYou got a problem with that?%u201D Yes I do. This person you just abused is MY patient and deserves the same care I would give you. If you want to hide your abuse, then why did you call expecting us to play along and to cover your but?

Too many bully have become cops. They believe they are above the law as opposed to being the law. I have lost a lot of trust and faith in most law enforcement as they fairly consistently abuse the law, the public, and the system.

One other note, the ER staff needs to interview the patient AWAY from the police that may be with the patient. On the ambulance, we are unfortunately required to have an arresting officer travel in with the patient to the ER. This continues the intimidation that you can see in the (usually bleeding) face of the abused person. The victim knows they will be returned to the unsupervised custody of the police once medical care has been rendered where once again they can be abused without witnesses or recourse. Trust me, I have heard the cops talk about how they can hurt someone without leaving evidence and then it is the suspects word against the police who stick together without fail.

A hospital patient advocate should be present whenever a person in custody is brought into an emergency room. Yes, there are many patients that are jerks and do not appreciate you, but they still deserve respect and the same level of treatment that anyone in public service receives when they need medical care.
4 / 5 (3) Dec 25, 2008
It's high time thees thugs with badges were brought to heel.
3.5 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2008
Anecdotal evidence is not proof of anything, even a trend.

How many police arrests are made?
How many result in a need for medical care?
What is the the level of medical care required?
How many were conditions that existed before the police arrest?
1 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2008
Are their bad cops. Yes some are bad. But as I have told my kids, if you meet a cop, be very respectful. Answer yes sir, no sir. Dont yell at them, dont make any sudden moves, put yourself in their shoes, and dont give them any reason to suspect you of anything. If you do these things, then your encounter with them should be no worse than perhaps a ticket.

However if you disrespect them, yell at them, fight them, run from them, curse them, if you wind up alive afterwoods, count yourself lucky.

Now there are cases or excessive police force and they should be dealt with. But often times what seems excessive generally isnt. Don't believe me, take some martial arts classes, take some shooting classes.

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