The Minneapolis mayor and a group of City Council members on Monday proposed separate independent reviews of cases in which police officers urged paramedics to use the powerful sedative ketamine to subdue members of the public.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo unveiled their proposal late Monday, vowing to launch an immediate search for an independent investigator to examine cases spanning 2015 to 2017 involving use of ketamine.
The announcement came just hours after a City Council committee meeting in which Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said he was "appalled" by the reports of ketamine use by authorities. He is asking the city's police oversight investigators to complete a review of these cases by late July, and for an independent review of the initial report.
The mounting calls for outside inquiry came after a Star Tribune story that included excerpts from a draft of the report, conducted by the city's Office of Independent Police Oversight Review.
The draft described several examples of Minneapolis police asking for ketamine during confrontations with the public over the past several years, noting an increase in ketamine use during calls involving police from three in 2012 to 62 last year. The report also questioned the need for the sedative for people already restrained or who did not appear severely agitated, and why police would urge medical officials to use the drug.
"It's frankly something that a light has been shined on, and we want to get to the bottom of it," said Council Member Andrew Johnson.
Frey said his proposed investigation differs from the council measure because it will start sooner and won't be limited to cases when police made an arrest; some cases in the draft report did not result in the person being arrested.
Frey said he and council members are "working toward the same ends" and that he's supportive of the police review office finishing its work.
The comments from City Council members marked the most pointed criticism from City Hall of the use of ketamine, which can put users in a trancelike state, causing hallucinations and amnesia.
Last week, city Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel said the report was incomplete and would be changed to reflect the input of medical professionals and police.
"We have to remember as elected officials that we defend the people of this city — not the city itself," said Council Member Jeremy Schroeder, a member of the committee that oversees public health and civil rights. "When these things are happening, we need to take action quickly."
The action passed unanimously. Council Member Jeremiah Ellison and Council President Lisa Bender, though not committee members, showed up to support the call for answers.
"There are some questions," said Ellison. "There's the question of: What did our officers do, right? And we as a city need to be held accountable for that.
"But then there's the other part, that's equally as troubling, that we don't have purview over, and that is the county role. So I hope that the county will step up and figure out how they're going to hold the EMS accountable for this whole ordeal."
Cunningham asked that the independent study be completed and presented to the committee next month. He said the additional request for an external review is meant to add a layer of transparency "and hold ourselves accountable," and not meant to express lack of confidence in the police oversight staff.
It was not immediately clear who would conduct the independent evaluation.
The cases described in the report involved paramedics from both Hennepin Healthcare and North Memorial Medical Center. On Friday, Hennepin Healthcare leaders held a news conference calling the use of ketamine medically justifiable in the cases described in the report but said they will ask for an independent review of those incidents.
North Memorial did not grant an interview Monday. Spokeswoman Katy Sullivan provided a statement that said hospital EMS staff are dedicated to patient safety and "have the training and discretion to make medical decisions when responding to incidents."