MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Questions are being raised about the use of sedatives by emergency medical personnel during Minneapolis police actions.

Hennepin Healthcare stands by its procedures, while the Minneapolis Police Department is making a policy change.

The draft of the report by the Office of Police Conduct Review was given to the Star Tribune. It suggests officers were telling EMS personnel to inject crime suspects — who were already restrained — with the powerful sedative ketamine.

Hennepin Health care says it is responding to a report it has not seen, but believes is inaccurate.

“Last year, ketamine sedations were used in .095 percent of the 81,500 EMS transports, or calls for service, that we did last year,” said Dr. William Heegaard, the Chief Medical Officer at Hennepin County Medical Center.

EMS crews and police typically find themselves together at crime scenes and calls for assistance. Heegaard says EMTs use the drug appropriately when people are overly anxious and pose a threat to themselves and others.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says the report was incomplete, and had no information from medical personnel.

“When the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to make a policy change prohibiting officers from making suggestions or recommendations to EMS staff,” Arradondo said.

Jason Varin, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy, says ketamine is now used mostly by veterinarians — but it is sometimes abused as a street drug called “Special K.“

“It was initially used in the Vietnam War as a quick and effective anesthetic for field service,” Varin said. “It has been abused for many, many years for the hallucinatory, dissociative symptoms it provides. Some people find it unpleasant, other people seem to find it interesting.”

Hennepin Healthcare says ketamine can save lives when used correctly, and officials made it clear to EMTs early last month that only paramedics can make the decision to administer medications.

Arradondo say the report will be made available to the public for review once it is complete.

Reg Chapman

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