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Heart attack in police cell

2 June 2006 – Last Sunday, a detainee with a heart condition was hospitalised. Reports on Indymedia claim that the police was negligent, but a police representative said that the incident was responded to in an adequate manner.

Last Saturday, the police arrested followers of the Antifascist Action, who protested against a demonstration of an extreme right organisation. One of the detainees indicated that he had a heart condition. A spray to be used in case of heart problems was confiscated along with his other possessions.

According to reports on the Indymedia website, the police tried in this way to pressurise the man to provide his name. When the man was having heart problems, the police would have been slow to respond. Also, a police doctor would have said that he could do nothing unless the man would say what his name was. The man was brought to a hospital, where they would have told him that he had had a heart attack.

Yesterday, a group went to the police station to collect the possessions of the detainee. At first, a police doctor would have said that his medication was missing. Later, the group would have been sent away. The detainee himself did not return to the police station, because he was afraid the same would happen again.

A police representative confirms that a detainee with heart problems was brought to the hospital last Sunday. However, he says that medical assistance had been available immediately when the problems occurred.

This was not a police doctor, but staff of the Municipal Health Service. The representative says he is annoyed by the allegations made against the police: “It is almost unique in the Netherlands that we have medical assistance available twenty four hours per day. We have no interest in having people die in their cell”.

The representative also confirms that a group went to the police station to collect the possessions of the detainee, but they were not given them because they did not make themselves known. “We cannot just give away someone’s stuff to anybody”.

The detainee’s personal effects, including the spray, are still in the possession of the police. The police have made up a report on the incident. “If people want to know how things happened, they can request to see the report on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act”.

Recently, the State Department of Criminal Investigation investigated deaths in police cells. These occur on average seven times per year. Among deaths of natural causes, the most common cause is heart failure. In a couple of cases no doctor was alerted, even though there was cause to do so.

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