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Police Complaints Board Recommends Changes to MPD Medical Treatment Policies

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report and set of recommendations to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier regarding MPD’s policies and procedures governing the care and treatment of sick or injured arrestees in MPD custody.

Over the past few years, OPC has received complaints in which arrestees with medical issues alleged that MPD officers failed to provide them with medical treatment, dissuaded or attempted to dissuade them from seeking medical treatment, or delayed medical treatment until after the arrestee had spent several hours in detention. 

The number of these complaints received by OPC is not large, but they do point to policies that are seriously outdated.  Revising and updating MPD’s existing policies will ensure that officers have current and appropriate guidance in dealing with these important situations.

MPD’s current general orders, as well as the training materials for officers, do not clearly stress the importance of transporting arrestees in need of medical treatment promptly, or the danger of officers making their own assessments of arrestees’ medical conditions.

To ensure that MPD officers provide quality care and assistance to arrestees in need of medical treatment, PCB recommends that MPD update and revise its medical treatment policies and procedures, provide comprehensive in-service and new recruit training on the updated and revised policies and procedures, consider hiring or having a trained health care professional or professionals on call to help assess arrestees’ medical conditions, and implement other “best practices” to ensure prompt delivery of medical services to those in police custody.

“Many arrestees have serious illnesses and conditions that can become life-threatening if not assessed and responded to properly,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s executive director.  “It is important that MPD revise its policies and procedures to provide officers with better guidance on how to respond to those arrestees in need of medical assistance, and to avoid future liability for the District.”

Select the link below to view a copy of the PCB’s full report and recommendations: