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Managing <1 (On Average) Career Arrest-Related Death Risks

Posted by Michael Brave on March 14, 2017 at 12:08 PM



This week’s guest is Michael Brave, President of LAAW International, Inc. and the former President of the International Force Institute, Inc. Michael is also the National Litigation Counsel for TASER International, Inc., as well as a certified Master TASER® Instructor and Legal Advisor to the TASER Training Board.

His experience includes involvement in a wide-range of comprehensive law enforcement and private security risk/liability and litigation management services. These services include: training programs, policy development and review, liability/risk assessments, training appraisals, department audits, post critical incident analysis, etc. He has served as a litigation consultant and an expert witness in state and federal civil rights issues.

How Many Arrests in the US Result in Risk of Death?

For every 71 encounters an officer has in the United States, there will be one case involving use of force or potential for use of force. For every 1000 cases where use of force is deemed necessary, there will be one temporal death.

Below are approximate numbers involving interaction with law enforcement:

  • 32,000 cases of contact between police officers and civilians: 1 death
  • 14,000 arrests: 1 death
  • 600 – 1000 uses of force: 1 death
  • 700 people detained in jail: 1 death

Known Causes of Arrest-Related Deaths

Drug and alcohol abuse, either acute or long-term, may serve as contributing factors to arrest-related deaths. The body, especially the heart, may become so stressed from the heavy use of these substances that it could result in death. Over-exertion, emotional or mental stress, as well as other health issues that are triggered under stressful situations can be instrumental in arrest-related deaths.

What are the Biggest Concerns with Arrest-Related Deaths?

Since arrest-related deaths are relatively rare, most police officers do not have enough training or information to appropriately handle these situations. As a result, it may be difficult for them to identify some of the symptoms of an individual that may be experiencing a body-induced stressor that can result in death.

Inconsistencies in the investigation of arrest-related deaths are also of concern. This is not necessarily because investigators are bad at their job, but rather because these deaths occur so infrequently that it would be challenging to conduct a textbook investigation. 

A Perfect Investigation Would Consist of:

  • Identifying, capturing and collecting all of the objective evidence so that those examining the evidence can perform a scientific analysis of how the death occurred.
  • Adherence to a timeline that guides the process after an arrest-related death has occurred. The timeline should contain information regarding all of the individuals involved, what to do if the dispatcher isn't trained in a health issue that the individual is experiencing, whether or not the responding officer will be able to adequately handle the situation, etc.
  • Adequate training within all aspects of an emergency situation. The dispatcher, the arresting officer, responding EMTs and those that initially detained the civilian when he or she was taken into jail should all have a thorough understanding of the situation. When the detainee does pass away, the medical examiner should be privy to all of the information necessary to conduct a proper investigation.