Police officer Marcel Allen is hoping a video he’s working on for the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN) will help police officers nationwide better assess situations when approaching people who have gone into seizure.
Since last speaking to the Voices of Epilepsy in March, Allen has been busy working on the video, which contains several scenarios police can face when approaching situations involving people who have gone into seizure. It is slated to be made available on the CPKN, an online education provider for police and law-enforcement personnel, on Purple Day, March 26.
Currently, the video is in the production stage, with Allen focusing on making sure the terminology used is in plain language to maximize people’s understanding of epilepsy and seizures. Allen is also working with other law-enforcement officials to ensure information in the video falls in line with Ontario’s policing standard manual, which must be strictly followed.
When a person goes into seizure, it can be challenging for responding police officers to distinguish between people who have epilepsy or other seizure disorders and a person who is intoxicated or has mental-health issues if they are not educated about seizures, says Allen, who has epilepsy.
The goal of the video is to educate officers on how to assess situations to determine if a person has a seizure disorder and then properly address the situation in a manner that’s safe for both officers and the person they’re approaching. If a person is in seizure or in a postictal state, they need immediate medical attention.
The video will also pose two perspectives to viewers: that of a police officer and that of a person who has had a seizure, notes Allen.
“When police are walking into an environment (where there is potential of threat), police have to assess their environment and the person within that environment to determine all the different factors (that can be present),” says Allen.
Allen knows first-hand what can result from police officers not understanding how to assess a situation when approaching someone with a seizure disorder. On Aug. 8, 2010, Allen was off duty and sitting in his car in traffic with his children in downtown Ottawa when he went into seizure. As he was coming out of seizure, a nearby RCMP officer responded, followed by city police.
While in a postictal state he struggled with officers, a common reaction, but it resulted in Allen being Tasered by an officer.
Allen decided to focus his frustration from the incident in producing a video to better educate law enforcement on assessing situations involving people with seizure disorders.
“Their reaction in trying to help me was probably the worst reaction that they could have had,” Allen said earlier this year.
“When I realized that, I thought, OK, something has to be done.”
Allen also extends gratitude to Epilepsy Ontario, epilepsy experts and the law-enforcement officials who are helping with the video’s creation.
“It (would be) a daunting task for one person,” he says.
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Writer: Deron Hamel