A new independent investigation on the use of a powerful drug to calm agitated people will focus on whether Minneapolis police inappropriately urged or assisted paramedics in the use of the sedatives in recent years.
Deputy Police Chief Henry Halvorson told members of the City Council's Public Safety Committee Thursday that no officers have been disciplined for incidents involving the sedative ketamine. Reading a statement from Chief Medaria Arradondo, Halvorson said the information on ketamine and police is incomplete, and police leaders will wait for further investigation before deciding how to respond.
"When the report is final and the independent review has been completed, I am committed to acting on the independent examiners findings and any best practices set forth," said Halvorson, speaking for Arradondo, who could not attend the meeting.
Halvorson made the comments at a committee meeting so crowded the city opened a viewing room for overflow.
The council was seeking public comment and an update regarding a draft report from the city's Office of Police Conduct Review that questioned whether officers urged paramedics to use ketamine.
The draft report has not been released to the public, but the Star Tribune obtained a copy and published excerpts last week.
More than a dozen members of the public spoke critically about paramedics sedating people at the urging of police, a practice that has previously not been publicized. Many called on the council and police to discipline the officers cited in the draft report.
"What's going on here? There's a serious breakdown in oversight, which frankly does not surprise me," said activist David Bicking. "I don't think it's good for the city to sit back and wait for lawsuits to be filed, though I'm sure there will be."
"It's wrong. It's just wrong," said Toya Woodland, a minister. "And the people who did these things should be fired from their jobs immediately."
The council invited representatives from Hennepin Healthcare to speak, but none was present.
Earlier this week, Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey announced they would be calling for the investigation into the ketamine incidents. A group of City Council members asked for the police oversight investigators to finish their report by late July.
The council committee did not take any action Thursday, but several members raised concerns over the draft report and questioned Halvorson on the police response.
"I hear everyone here," said Council Member Phillipe Cunningham. "Y'all showed up and spoke truth about what is happening and I share in your concern."
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison asked Halvorson about the investigation that Arradondo and Frey requested.
Halvorson said they have not yet named an investigator, but will look for someone outside the city — and potentially outside the state — with no ties to the police department. He said Arradondo and Frey are very close to naming the investigator, and the examination will likely be limited to the actions of Minneapolis officers, rather than questions the draft report raised about paramedics.
"Basically, we will focus on what our officers were doing at the scene specifically related to ketamine," said Halvorson.
Several council members spoke about the importance of preserving community trust and showing the city cares about the civil rights of its citizens.
"Whether we discover that our officers directly ordered or had a legally inappropriate role in administering ketamine, what I can tell you is this feels like a violation of the spirit of our community," said Council Member Steve Fletcher. "What most of us feel is recoil."