Monday, October 13, 2008

Police car wrong solution

The tragic story of a single mom coping with a mentally ill 12 year old son appeared in yesterday's Lincoln Journal Star. I have incredible sympathy for what she is going through. I talked to her a few weeks ago, when she called me to express her displeasure that a police officer would not transport her handcuffed child in a patrol car to the hospital. LPD took a bit of criticism in the comments. The very first commenter misinterpreted this passage in the article:

"His mother knew he needed to go to the hospital. But the officer, although sympathetic, said Lincoln Police Department policy wouldn’t allow her to take the boy to the hospital."

The "her" in the excerpt is the police officer--not the mother. The police officer would not transport the child to the hospital. We most certainly did not prevent mom from taking the child to the hospital, which, under the circumstances, sounds like a pretty reasonable course of action.

As I explained to the child's mother, we do not think it is either safe or good public policy to transport people in acute mental health crises to hospitals or elsewhere restrained in the back seat of police cars, if this can be avoided. This practice poses known risks, and is also ethically dubious. For what other medical condition would the solution to a critical episode of the illness be to call the police? An asthma attack? Anaphylactic shock from an allergy? A severe diabetic reaction? I think not. As I told her, I believe her son needed an ambulance, medical professionals, and a hospital bed--not a set of handcuffs and the back seat of a patrol car.

I'll grant you this, though, if neither the mother nor the principal had the presence of mind to call an ambulance for this emergency, the police officer probably should have suggested it. We'll try to make sure we do that more reliably, when the care-givers don't think of it.


Anonymous said...

While the sentence was poorly-written (though extremely verbose) and thus liable to be misinterpreted, the LJS reader/poster is likely the sort that actually looks for any opportunity (real or imagined) to criticize law enforcement.

In another weekend incident, the LJS neglected to mention that the suspect was non-coincidentally due in court on 10/17 for a docket call - because he was arrested for the same thing on 9/22! That'll really help him out with the judge. They also didn't mention that he'd also previously done time for burglary, violation of a protection order, as well as meth possession, and was only out of jail a couple of months before he did the 9/22 assault on a pregnant woman. It's journalistic negligence to not point out this pattern of criminal behavior.

Anonymous said...

I agree.
That is rare. Also Mom should see if OJS can be appointed by the Juv judge. This is a fast track to services.

Anonymous said...

6:52 --

While I do recognize that very often, LJS articles are poorly written, I think you're falling into the same trap you wrote about in your first paragraph, except to bust the chops of the LJS, not law enforcement.

This incident occurred over the weekend and the LPD public records counter was closed. Yes, the LJS probably could've gotten that information where you did. I would imagine they were meeting a print deadline and didn't have the time to peruse (and verify) the PR's criminal history.

Let's be fair.

Anonymous said...


I love these codes, what does OJS mean?

Anonymous said...

4:52, I looked that info up in about 3 minutes, on the internet, and I wasn't being paid to do that, nor am I a professional, paid journalist.

Anonymous said...

Chief - I'll go along w/ 90% of what you said regarding similar critical situations where a cruiser is not the appropriate means of transportation.

My 10% is in the question around a critically injured and dying individual - say child w/ a gunshot wound - you have an emergency vehicle on-site and immediate transportation - versus 6-8 min wait while LFD arrives.

Are you saying that the officer should not (would not) transport in that situation?

How does that change if the gunshot victim is another LPD officer?

Anonymous said...

I think we might need another newspaper in Lincoln...maybe one that would tell the whole story and actually have reporters that investigate what they are reporting on.

Tom Casady said...


Obviously, I'm not saying "never." I believe my blog post reads:

" the back seat of police cars, if this can be avoided."

It's not good to transport an agitated mentally ill child handcuffed in a patrol car's back seat. If he can't be settled down enough to go to the hospital with his mom, and has to be phyically restrained, an ambulance with a paramedic is the preferred method of transportation.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 1048
Transporting a shooting vict (officer or not) in a cruiser would not be wise in my opion. First of all if you throw them in your car you can't do CPR or any life saving measures. Second if it is joe citizen and he dies in your car then you have a whole new set of problems ie..lawsuits, custody problems, and any medical professional will probably testify that it wouldn't be a good idea and bad judgement on the officers part. It's not always good just to load and go to the hospital. Most of us are not trained EMT's and just know basic CPR and how to deal with bleeding. In my long career as a PO I have been to many scene's where someone was in a lot of distress and I have never even thought of taking them in a cruiser. Bad move.

Late As Always said...

So what are the guidelines for transporting people in cruisers? Obviously, LPD isn't a Taxi service, and officers often don't have EMS certificates for medical emergencies. When I am late for an important appointment, it feels like an emergency to me. Could I call LPD?

Anonymous said...

OJS: Office Juvinile Services
CCO: County Court Officer
DCO: District Court Officer
DCS: Department Correctional Services
CYA for 200

Anonymous said...

To Let's be fair.

October 13, 2008 8:46 AM

It takes all of one minute to look up a name at the DCS web site.
the Journal star should provide this. That is FAIR.

Tom Casady said...


You are, of course, right. The day has long passed since getting the patient to the hospital quicker has been the goal of emergency medical response. Getting the patient stabilized and emergency treatment delivered is critical, and can't happen with the patient left alone in the back seat of a speeding patrol car. I just didn't think it was necessary to confound my response to 10:48's comment with the additional details on why tossing a shooting victim in the police car might not always be the best idea.

Jim J:

News media should balance the need for the public to know against the suspect's right to a fair trial. Generally, they should avoid prejudicial pre-trial publicity, just like me. Neither of us succeeds every time, and I should probably stick a sock in my mouth more often.

Anonymous said...

or have someone available with the shovel!