Among the range of topics covered at Berkeley’s Police Accountability Board meeting January 26, 2022, was the issue of police conduct during an arrest, including the use of injections without the suspect’s consent. Board staff and interim Director of Police Accountability Katherine Lee revisited a complaint – originally filed in 2021 – after a review of police body camera footage, by investigator Byron Norris, appeared to show an officer directing paramedics to inject a suspect with a substance without the suspect’s permission. The suspect at the time was handcuffed and sitting on the ground.
The Board was unable to identify a Berkeley Police Department (BPD) policy governing injections. According to Berkeley police Lieutenant Rittenhouse, this is because “we don’t inject or direct paramedics in the application of any medicines. Our role on scene is to give [the paramedics] all the facts: what happened preceding their arrival, what we saw, and [the paramedics] make independent medical decisions.”
Board Member Nathan Mizell raised the point that there are in other areas, such as 5150 holds, very specific requirements in terms of involuntary injections, so “for this to happen in this case where [the policies] did not exist and for an officer… to direct a paramedic or EMT to inject someone seems highly, highly concerning.”
Board Member Michael Chang connected the issue of injections administered at the direction of police to the case of Elijah McClain, a Black man who died in Aurora, Colorado after being restrained in a chokehold and injected with a large dose of the sedative ketamine. A subsequent indictment from a Colorado state grand jury accused paramedics of not properly following injection protocols before they injected Mr. McClain with ketamine. Board Member Chang then concluded that “these are things that should have policies in place.”
Further topics discussed in the Board meeting were the endorsement of Berkeley Councilwoman Kate Harrison’s rejection of a Berkeley police department use policy that would have expanded the use of Automated License Plate Readers for purposes beyond parking enforcement. Councilwoman Harrison’s rejection of the use policy was based on the fact that the city council had only approved the use of the surveillance technology in parking enforcement and nothing more.
A motion was then brought forward by Board Member Mizell to open a policy complaint, seeking to know what the substance was that was injected, what the circumstances were that led to the use of injections, and what the best practices for injections are. The motion was seconded by Board Member Kitty Calavita and carried by unanimous consent.
Also discussed was an investigation into the death of a man who had been released from Berkeley police custody. The man, who had died of alcohol poisoning, was placed in a sobering cell; it was noted that he had a chronic pre-existing medical condition. The death of the man, hours after he had been in police custody, was reported by KTVU and raised concerns among the public regarding the level of care the man received.
The meeting ended with the election of Board Member Michael Chang to the role of Police Accountability Board Chairperson and Board Member Nathan Mizell to the role of Vice-Chair.
All League News