California Medicine Man: ER Docs Feel the Police Use Excessive Force

California Medicine Man: ER Docs Feel the Police Use Excessive Force
ER Docs Feel the Police Use Excessive Force
To me, this story should be filed under the category of “There’s less to this than meets the eye”.

Amen, Brother.


  1. I looked for a photo advertisement from Taser on this subject. I know you are saying its an advertisement from Taser, however, it shows a male attacking an officer with a weapon. Later in court, the male is surrounded by family, looks like someone you want to be friends with and baby sit your kids. I was unable to locate the photo to post here, sorry. You get the point. I think the similar thing is happening in the ER as is in the advertisement.

    As a law enforcement professional this makes me mad, for many of the reasons posted already in the blog. The profession of medicine is to treat injuries and not, in this case, comment to the possible prevention of such injuries. There are many things that medicine can and should comment on regarding the prevention of injuries or the prevention of illness. Such as, wear your seat belt to prevent serious car accident injuries. Wash your hands to prevent the spread of colds. Do what the officer tells you to do to prevent injury. Correctly stated, many ways to prevent injuries, the first of which is the subject of the arrest, complying with the officers orders to stop fighting, to place his hands behind his back and be handcuffed. Everyone in law enforcement expects to be lied to, expects to be sworn at, expects people to passively resist. These people do not get hurt. Yet, if you do actively resist and the officer brings you under control, it is not the ER doc’s place to say that the cop used to much force.

    I’ll tell you what, I will continue to ask nicely for him to stop hitting you next time.

  2. I have not read the full study, but it appears to me that the news has changed the focus of the study significantly. I wrote a bunch about this in How Often Do Police Use Excessive Force?

  3. I dont think that they use excessive force, just that they need to use different force. In this way the patients would not end up in the ER. I suggest Brazilian Jujitzu. This way the suspect is incapacitated and then I dont have much to do except relocate a shoulder or ywo. Of course it seems that many suspects have acute chrome induced chest pain. (Handcuffs cause instant need for medical attention in the hope that they will be dropped off at the ER instead of jail). I personnaly commend our men in blue for having the restraint to not choke the S**** out of more of the people who so desperately deserve it. One of my favorite patients came in with the police complaining that the police had just brutally hit him and that he wanted to press charges and sue. He even showed me the brownish yellow bruises were they hit him and the partially healed MCP fractures he had. He wanted me to be sure that I documented everything which I did. I precisely listed all his old bruises and the old hand fractures that he had from hitting someone or something. I was tickled when 3 months later, there was a request from an attorney for his medical records.

  4. Goatwhacker says:

    The article seems to be leading towards the conclusion physicians should be mandatory identifiers and reporters of excessive force by police in the same way we report child and elder abuse. This is a role I would guess few physicians want. An hour or two of lectures will not provide the knowledge docs would need to make these kinds of determinations.

    I no longer do ED work but if I had been given the survey I would have to say yes, I saw cases where excessive force seemed to have been used. I of course was usually seeing the patient after the struggle, and realized I was in no position to make a good judgment. This is radically different than child and elder abuse where violence is generally presumed to be unnecessary. You don’t have to be in an ED very long to learn there are times when force is necessary to protect police, ED staff and patients.

  5. My own law enforcement background makes me view this article through a very dim lens. In short, I don’t question what the officers did on the street. Been there, done that… and these things always look different once the “patient” is subdued, and the restrospectoscope has been trotted out.

    Until you’ve seen the entire incident with your own eyes (or better yet, actually helped fight the suspect, including watch him/her nearly incapacitates other officers, before being dogpiled by the rest), you really don’t need to be passing judgment. There’s a reason why Police use-of-force cases are judged from the standard of a reasonable police officer, and not the usual reasonable man standard.

    Sorry… judging police use-of-force isn’t in my lane, and I’m not in a hurry to monday-morning-quarterback the guys who actually do that job, and making me some sort of “mandatory reporter” isn’t going to change that.

  6. I think this is another example of why you can’t just read an article’s abstract, but must look at the actual data. If the question was phrased “Have you seen a case of what may have been excessive force by a LEO in the last year” then I would not be surprised if a majority said “yes.”

    But look carefully at the question (I haven’t seen the actual survey instrument) – things like “MAY HAVE been excessive” and ” A case” (indicating a singular occurance).

    I think that trying to spin this into a LEO vs ED MD is the wrong angle. Realistically, ED physicians AND law enforcement officers want the same thing – criminals behind bars, nobody to get hurt, neither profession to be impugned by the rogue actions of the rare bad apple.

    As far as mandatory reporting goes, the REASON we report elder abuse and child abuse is because these populations are essentially unable to advocate for themselves, so we do so for them. However, if a mentally sound adult is allegedly arrested with excessive force, it is the responsibility of that adult to advocate for himself (and a system of review and ability to complain should be in place.) The role of the physician in this setting would be to document any injuries accurately and in a non-biased fashion so that the individual could report that information should s/he choose.

  7. I thought physicians surveys like this were EXACTLY the kind of evidence we should be basing our decisions on? Or is that only when we’re discussing legal reform, where physicians know even less?

  8. What’s your point, Matt? I know you wish doctors would STHU and stop attempting to interfere with your livelihood. What else is new?

  9. Didn’t know I was being obtuse. I don’t make my money doing med mal work. I wish you guys would STHU and do something besides bitch to save medicine, something that actually changed the way you got paid and thus benefited us all! I’m just chuckling about how useless doctor “surveys” are on issues doctors know nothing about, yet you guys cite them as “proof” whenever they agree with you.

  10. What would constitute evidence that police were using too much force? A couple of the comments above (LE Rep, The New Guy) don’t seem to offer much way of determining whether the police are or aren’t regularly using too much force, or whether specific policemen are using too much force.

  11. Cross posted from


    A survey of local police personnel reveals that many of them believe that ER physicians use the wrong type of suture in closing lacerations, prescribe incorrect antibiotics, or otherwise misuse their positions as healers when caring for their colleagues. When questioned, the police spokeperson was able to cite absolutely no data to confirm these beliefs, but she stated that “Everybody says so, especially the instructors at the Police Academy.” She added that the recipients of alleged poor care were afraid to complain, because they rely of the goodwill of the ER physicians and staff to help them when they are injured while on their beats protecting the populace.


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