Minneapolis set to pay Sally Yates $195K for ketamine investigation
A Minneapolis City Council committee on Tuesday approved paying $195,000 to former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates to investigate a pattern of Minneapolis police officers urging paramedics to sedate people with ketamine during emergency calls.
If passed by the full City Council Friday, the contract will direct Yates and her Atlanta-based law firm, King and Spalding LLP, to spend the next few months digging deep into police data, including every mention of the word “ketamine” in reports dating back to 2015, to determine whether officers acted inappropriately. The investigation will also examine if the city needs better training and policies for officers interacting with paramedics.
The firm will report its findings by the end of the year, said Andrea Larson, the city’s manager for strategic planning.
The contract arose from Mayor Jacob Frey’s promise of a rigorous independent investigation over the city’s role in the use of ketamine during emergency calls. Though some raised concerns about the cost, which will come out of a police department budget already strained from added Super Bowl security, the council’s Ways and Means Committee unanimously voted in favor of the contract.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said he supported an independent examination into allegations that span police and medical professions in Minneapolis. But he expressed concerns over the city’s continued relationship with county medical personnel, and questioned why there hasn’t been more talk about those who were sedated with ketamine.
“Who will be held accountable for the gross violation of our residents’ civil rights?” asked Cunningham.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has promised unfettered access to investigators and the cooperation of his department.
The vote came three months after the Star Tribune obtaineda draft of a city investigation that questioned why police were seen repeatedly on body-camera footage asking medical practitioners to use ketamine during encounters with the public ranging from alleged obstruction of justice to jaywalking, and in some cases holding the person down to assist the paramedics. The report also described incidents of officers joking about the drug, referring to it as “the Big-K” or remarking that a person under the drug’s influence, “hit the K-hole.”
Patients were then enrolled in a ketamine drug trial, without their prior consent, by Hennepin Healthcare researchers studying the sedative’s impact on people in pre-hospital scenarios. The hospital has defended its practices, butsuspended the study after public protests and criticism from elected officials. Thehospital also invited an outside investigation into their research protocols.
Police sent out a memo in May ordering officers not to make recommendations on medical treatment. Arradondo promised a fair examination into the incidents, but defended officers who regularly deal with difficult medical cases in Minneapolis.
In July, the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review released a final draft of its ketamine investigation, which recommended stronger policies for clearer rules for officers dealing with people experiencing mental health crises.
At the meeting Tuesday, Cunningham said he worried the independent investigation undermined the city’s trust in police oversight staff.
Council Member Abdi Warsame countered by saying an outside investigation shows citizens that the council is committed to keeping its residents safe.
“I think it is very important to give confidence to our residents that we’re taking this seriously, and that their welfare and well-being is important,” Warsame said.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036