I am a full-time college student and one of my minors is Criminology. I have been taught theories on causes and prevention of crime, police policies, police actions and sanctions for improper actions, criminal laws and the correctional system. I have a passion for the criminal justice system even with its faults. Often I have a strong stomach for what I see, hear and learn, but I was introduced to something unsettling last semester, and this past week I got to see and hear an encounter that brought me to tears in class.
Last semester, my professor was talking about her friend’s brother who is a Type 1 diabetic, who was inured by the police during a police encounter while he was low. This past week, I got to see a video in which I could hear the officers wrestling a diabetic (Type unknown to me), who was suffering a low, to the ground because he was not cooperating with the officers. In this encounter, the citizen ended up with a broken wrist from having been wrestled to the ground. After the officers had gotten the citizen under their control, they then were able to understand what was happening to this person, and they then proceeded to get him medical attention and the treatment that he needed.
I have heard several stories about incidents like this since last semester. When the article and video were brought up in class this past week, I got into a heated discussion with my instructor because he is a retired police officer. He said that this is not uncommon and that the only training he received for recognizing a diabetic was that their breath would be different. I immediately corrected him by saying that if they are low their breath is not going to be different. My instructor said that this was how he was trained, and he doesn’t know how they are being trained now about these types of situations. The fact remains that officers are allowed to use force when the person they are dealing with is being combative. It is the responsibility of the police departments to change how they train their officers to recognize medical conditions, such as diabetes, so that situations like the ones I have talked about become fewer and far between.
I am writing about this because we all have a fear of our loved ones getting hurt and here is another example of how they can get hurt. Until training has been changed, I have some suggestions on how to keep our loved ones safe. Try to keep the Medical ID bracelet visible. Keep something visible on the wallet or purse that shows that they have diabetes. I would also insist that they have something on their vehicle that gets the point across that there is someone with diabetes on board. I know that this action doesn’t seem right and may invite some other problems, but I would suggest doing it because it may prevent what I am discussing to occur.
Rehearse with your loved ones what to say should they feel low and are in need of assistance. I understand that when someone is low, it is very hard for them to think clearly and even they cannot always recognize the need to get treatment. I have done a lot of this type of rehearsing with Deacon and 95% of the time he has a severe low he can and does let someone know that he is having a problem. You can never know which time would be the time that they can say that they need treatment or not. But the times that they cannot ask for help become less likely the more this is practiced.
Aside from what we can do to prevent this upon our loved ones or ourselves by teaching them how to convey their need for treatment when they cannot advocate for themselves, speak to your local police department about their training. Volunteer to train the department on the signs and what to do if they should find themselves in that situation. Ask how the department will go about ensuring that their officers will be trained so that incidents like these will not happen.
As a fellow criminologist, I understand the needs of law enforcement to protect themselves because they go into all situations with no previous knowledge of the situation so they are always on their guard but there has to be a way to meet in the middle in situations like these so that the police are protected but so is the citizen who is in need of help. I have heard about at least 4 cases since I was introduced to this in March of this year. That has only been in the time span of 7 months. With the numbers of police officers being hired and the numbers of diagnosed cases of diabetes growing, this needs to be addressed. I was torn to watch the video since I do understand what that citizen was going through. I felt awful for him and it spoke to me to do something about it within my own community and with Deacon. I have already spoken with Deacon about some things that I feel he should not do as a diabetic, such as drink alcohol, and when he is older I will talk to him about this too.
So please pass this message on. Get active in training officers. Take some of my ideas to make sure that the police know that they may be encountering a diabetic in need and not someone who needs to be subdued. The fact is in the time that it took for the officers in the case that I am speaking of to subdue the citizen, his hypoglycemic episode probably worsened. We all know that time is of the essence when we need to be treated and it is not to be wasted. The diabetes community is adamant about asking for a cure, asking for better treatment options, asking for fair social treatment for our loved ones with diabetes. Here is a social aspect that you may not have been aware of that needs to be addressed. Please try to make this part of what you are asking for.