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When a Police Officer Used Excessive Force on Me During a Medical Episode

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Lately, I’ve seen a lot of people who are claiming that police using excessive force is “only a problem if you’re breaking the law.” This simply isn’t true.

I have personally had to deal with corrupt officers using excessive force and I was not breaking the law.

You see, as a service dog handler, I occasionally encounter an employee or place of business that doesn’t know the law and illegally denies me access to their facilities and/or services. When this happens, I sometimes find it helpful to call upon a law enforcement officer to come and help me explain the laws to them because businesses can be more receptive to an authority figure explaining my right to be accompanied by my service dog.

Unfortunately, because these situations are so very stressful, they can sometimes trigger a medical episode. When this happens and I am forced to sit or lie on the spot — or worse, I collapse altogether — I can be perceived as “uncooperative” or “disruptive” and therefore I can be detained and even arrested for it.

I have had the horrifying experience where an officer actually tried to arrest me because I was lying on the ground outside a business, convulsing and having a panic attack that was moments away from becoming a seizure. The officer didn’t care that my service dog was tasking and that I had already explained I had a medical condition of this nature. He saw someone lying down barely out of the business’ doorway and “causing a scene.” He even went so far as to try and remove my service dog from her tasking position on my chest. Yes, this officer actually tried pulling my actively tasking service dog off me even with her struggling to remain on top of me, and me grasping her harness as tightly as I could so she couldn’t be moved.

Thankfully, I had a friend with me who physically stepped between me and this officer and explained that I was having a medical episode and my dog was performing a task to keep me safe. I also was fortunate enough to have several bystanders step in and defend me while I rode out the episode and after I recovered, because yes — the officer still wanted to detain or arrest me and even went so far as to loudly ask the business owner if he would like to press charges against me for “disrupting business and loitering.” I again got lucky because the bystanders who defended me continued to stand up for me and insisted the officer call paramedics to check on me. I also got lucky that the business owner didn’t see where I had done anything wrong other than bring a dog into his establishment and didn’t want to pursue the matter because he was already getting a bad rep from his frequent and loyal customers — those wonderful bystanders who defended me.

Not everyone is that lucky. I won’t always encounter someone willing to step up and risk going to jail themselves just to defend me during an episode. I’m thankful I did on that day, but the problem still remains: that officer was willing to use unnecessary force in an effort to control the situation. This has to stop. There was no reason for that officer to use any type of force to control the situation or to forego calling the paramedics until four different people practically bullied him into it by taking his name and badge number, and then threatening to calling 911 themselves and the sheriff’s department to report him. There simply needs to be a change in policy to ensure that officers know when and where it is appropriate to use force and when it’s not. This situation could have easily cost me my life simply because of the perception an officer had of me. Excessive force from police is a problem for everyone, even those not breaking the law.

For more on the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, check out The Mighty’s topic page.

Image via contributor

Originally published: June 25, 2020
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