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DeSantis faces pressure for signing the so called “unconstitutional” bill as investigation reveals troubling trend of fatalities during police encounters in Florida


Florida – Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill last month designed to protect first responders by establishing strict boundaries between them and the public during their duties. While Senate Bill 184 aims to safeguard emergency personnel, it has sparked significant concerns about its implications for civil liberties, particularly regarding the ability to document police conduct. These concerns have intensified significantly lately, as a recent comprehensive investigation has revealed a troubling trend of fatalities linked to sedative use during police encounters in Florida.

Protecting First Responders While Ensuring Accountability

Governor DeSantis’s recent signing of Senate Bill 184 mandates a 25-foot distance between first responders and the public while emergency personnel carry out their duties. Although designed to protect responders, critics argue that the law impedes the public’s ability to film police activities and hold authorities accountable.

The First Amendment Foundation expressed its concerns, labeling the law as “highly discretionary” and potentially unconstitutional. They worry it could prevent citizens from documenting police activities and contribute to a lack of transparency in critical situations.

Amid growing scrutiny over civil liberties and public safety, the AP investigation underscores the need for comprehensive reform in both law enforcement practices and emergency medical protocols.

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Advocates urge a careful balance between protecting first responders and maintaining accountability, particularly when powerful sedatives are involved in policing activities.

Fatal Encounters Across Florida

At least 17 people have died in Florida over the last decade following physical encounters with police during which medical personnel injected them with powerful sedatives. These deaths occurred statewide, from Tallahassee to Tampa to West Palm Beach, with three incidents in Orlando.

DeSantis faces pressure for signing the so called "unconstitutional" bill as investigation reveals troubling trend of fatalities during police encounters in Florida

In Miami-Dade County, paramedics were involved in two fatal cases where sedatives were administered. Florida was identified as one of the states with the highest rates of deaths involving sedation, according to the AP’s investigation.

The findings were part of a larger investigation documenting over 1,000 deaths across the United States in incidents where officers used non-lethal weapons like Tasers, or physical force. The investigation reported that police use of force contributed to about half of the deaths.

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Sedation was found to be directly involved in 94 deaths nationally between 2012 and 2021, although the exact role of injections in these deaths was often unclear. Authorities tended to focus on police use of force and other substances in the individuals’ systems rather than investigating the appropriateness of administering sedatives.

Medical and Ethical Concerns

The practice of injecting sedatives, like ketamine and midazolam (better known as Versed), was originally intended to calm combative individuals so they could receive medical attention while ensuring the safety of front-line responders.

However, critics argue that administering these medications without consent poses significant health risks. Eric Jaeger, an emergency medical services educator from New Hampshire, highlighted the need for additional safety measures, stating that the dangers of sedation go “beyond any specific drug.”

In Florida, a 2006 grand jury that investigated deaths involving Tasers in Miami-Dade County recommended using midazolam as a sedative by squirting it into the noses of individuals. Despite concerns about respiratory depression, Miami-Dade paramedics adopted the practice, while other emergency medical services in Florida began using ketamine.

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A Disavowed Diagnosis

The administration of sedatives was often justified under a controversial diagnosis known as “excited delirium,” a condition characterized by agitation and linked to drug use or mental illness. Although the syndrome has been widely discredited by medical groups in recent years, it continues to be cited as a reason for using sedatives during police encounters.

The investigation’s findings underscore the need for a deeper examination of sedation practices, especially when used by medical personnel in collaboration with law enforcement. Advocates for reform are calling for increased training and oversight to ensure that individuals in distress receive appropriate and safe care.

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