Incident involving an officer with epilepsy was the catalyst for raising awareness within police force
On Aug. 8, 2010, Marcel Allen, an off-duty officer with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), was driving his children to their home in Pembroke, Ont. when he had an epileptic seizure in front of Parliament Hill. He characterizes the events that would unfold as a “turning point” in his life, one that would inspire him to raise awareness of seizure disorders within the OPS.
Shortly after Allen’s seizure ended that day, a nearby RCMP officer responded, followed by OPS officers. The RCMP officer grabbed Allen’s arm at one point. Allen, now in a “fight or flight” postictal state, began to struggle, prompting an OPS officer, a colleague of his, to Taser him.
While the incident garnered some negative media coverage, Allen underscores he has never had resentment towards his colleague for using the Taser; what he wanted to see is change in how police address situations involving people who’ve had seizures.
“Their reaction in trying to help me was probably the worst reaction that they could have had,” says Allen. “When I realized that, I thought, OK, something has to be done.”
What Allen is doing is embarking on a journey to educate police about seizure disorders and how to effectively cope with situations involving people who have had seizures.
Encouraging the OPS to mark Purple Day, an international event aimed at raising epilepsy awareness, is a major step in this process.
On March 26, the OPS will, for the first time, acknowledge Purple Day. Allen has played a large part in the OPS’s decision to honour the day through his work advocating on behalf of himself and others affected by seizure disorders.
To acknowledge the day, the OPS will be making an announcement throughout the organization to ask people to wear purple and to explain that police training is being planned so officers have more information when addressing people who have had a seizure.
The information being sent throughout the OPS will also explain what epilepsy is and how one in 100 people have the neurological disorder.
By acknowledging Purple Day, Allen says he hopes people within the OPS will take time to better understand epilepsy and seizures.
“I think it will be the beginning of acknowledging that seizure disorders are probably a little bit more (common) . . . than we believe,” says Allen.
Keep reading the Epilepsy Ontario website to learn about a video Marcel Allen is working on to help train police to effectively work in situations involving people who’ve had seizures.
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