Two officers were put on administrative leave after man died but are now back on the job.
When thinking of the many valuable services that police officers perform for communities across the country, performing medical transport duties is not typically on that list. That’s why a case in the Portland, Oregon, area has earned some attention recently. While transferring a former hospital patient to a mental health facility, the man who was being transported became unresponsive and died. Why the police were called in for this situation, and how it was handled overall, is now the subject of much debate.
When the now-deceased individual was being discharged from Providence Milwaukie Hospital on December 13th, he refused to leave as requested. As a result of his refusal to leave, the police were called to move Jean Descamps from the hospital to nearby Unity Behavioral Health Center where he could be treated further. Mr. Descamps had several warrants but could not be taken directly to the jail because of his physical condition at the time and needed to be moved to a treatment facility.
While on the way to Unity Behavioral Health Center, Mr. Descamps became unresponsive. Although resuscitation efforts were made, they were not successful, and Mr. Descamps was declared deceased. Although the results from a toxicology report still need to be returned, the initial finding from the medical examiner is that Jean Descamps likely died from a drug overdose along with contributing natural causes. That finding can be confirmed once the toxicology information is available.
The Milwaukie Police Department released the names of the two officers who were involved in the case – Bradley Walther and Timothy Cleary. While they were initially put on administrative leave while the case was under investigation, both are now back on the job. Although put in a difficult situation to do a medical transport, the officers do not appear to be under any investigation for wrongdoing in this case.
More and more, useful solutions are going to be required to find a way to safely and securely transport patients from one facility to another – especially in the case of patients who have criminal charges or open warrants that need to be addressed. This matter is further complicated by the drug epidemic that is sweeping the nation and causing problems for countless people, both the general public and those who work in law enforcement. It seems likely that some blend of law enforcement help along with healthcare professionals is going to be the right solution to protect everyone’s interests in these kinds of situations.
There is nothing that can be done reverse what has happened in this case, but lessons can be learned moving forward to avoid similar outcomes. Most likely, that will mean enacting policies that ensure medical professionals are involved in these kinds of transports, so they can watch for signs of health problems and intervene right away. If future patients who need to be transported can experience better outcomes because of this situation and the changes it causes, at least some good will have come from the event.