Below is an excerpt from a training presentation on diabetes made on January 31, 2014 at the New York City Police Academy by Alan Yatvin (Chair Emeritas, Legal Advocacy Subcommittee American Diabetes Association) and Daniel Lorber, MD. The program, was attended by 250 training sergeants who prepare for Command Level Training which these training sergeants will be providing to New York City Police officers in February.
On November 12, 1984, Graham, a diabetic, felt the onset of an insulin reaction. He asked a friend, William Berry, to drive him to a nearby convenience store so he could purchase some orange juice to counteract the reaction. Berry agreed, but when Graham entered the store, he saw a number of people ahead of him in the checkout line. Concerned about the delay, he hurried out of the store and asked Berry to drive him to a friend’s house instead. Respondent Connor, an officer of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Police Department, saw Graham hastily enter and leave the store. The officer became suspicious that something was amiss and followed Berry’s car. About one-half mile from the store, he made an investigative stop. Although Berry told Connor that Graham was simply suffering from a sugar reaction, the officer ordered Berry and Graham to wait while he found out what, if anything, had happened at the convenience store. When Officer Connor returned to his patrol car to call for backup assistance, Graham got out of the car, ran around it twice, and finally sat down on the curb, where he passed out briefly. In the ensuing confusion, a number of other Charlotte police officers arrived on the scene in response to Officer Connor’s request for backup. One of the officers rolled Graham over on the sidewalk and cuffed his hands tightly behind his back, ignoring Berry’s pleas to get him some sugar. Another officer said: I’ve seen a lot of people with sugar diabetes that never acted like this. Ain’t nothing wrong with the M. F. but drunk. Lock the S. B. up. Several officers then lifted Graham up from behind, carried him over to Berry’s car, and placed him face down on its hood. Regaining consciousness, Graham asked the officers to check in his wallet for a diabetic decal that he carried. In response, one of the officers told him to shut up and shoved his face down against the hood of the car. Four officers grabbed Graham and threw him headfirst into the police car. A friend of Graham’s brought some orange juice to the car, but the officers refused to let him have it. Finally, Officer Connor received a report that Graham had done nothing wrong at the convenience store, and the officers drove him home and released him. At some point during his encounter with the police, Graham sustained a broken foot, cuts on his wrists, a bruised forehead, and an injured shoulder; he also claims to have developed a loud ringing in his right ear.
These are the facts in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), a landmark United States Supreme Court case. Graham established that use of force by police officers against a free person is to be evaluated under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and that the reasonableness of any force used must be viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable police officer, under all the circumstances presented. Although this proposition is widely relied upon by police and police trainers, few recall the facts which gave rise to the case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes. Knowing how to respond to a potentially life threatening diabetes emergency is becoming increasingly important for law enforcement officers and other first responders. If you would like us to provide free ADA training to your local law enforcement agency contact our office. We have posters, fliers, and other handy ADA references.