DENVER (KDVR) — A city inquiry is underway after a Denver Police Department recruit had to have one of his legs amputated after a training drill at the police academy.
Sources told the Problem Solvers the recruit had a pre-existing medical condition that may have made him vulnerable to a terrible outcome.
The recruit, who FOX31 is not naming, had to be rushed to a hospital by ambulance on Jan. 6 from the Denver Police Academy on North Akron Way following a medical emergency.
Police train recruits on ‘Dynamic Action Drill’
Denver Police confirm the man was participating in what’s called a “Dynamic Action Drill,” where recruits have to role-play different scenarios, including where a suspect is resisting arrest and may be attacking an officer.
“That elevates not only the mental stress but the physical stress that a typical police officer would encounter on the street at any given day, at any given time,” said Natasha Powers, a former California police officer who now operates Powers Police Practices, Consulting and Investigations, based in Grand Junction.
Powers told the Problem Solvers that police candidates typically undergo a medical exam and a physical abilities test before they enter the academy.
“No instructor wants a trainee or a person that they’re training to become either injured through some sort of broken bone or have some sort of other major medical event. And the scenarios are designed, like I said, to elevate physical and mental stress, but not to harm the crew,” Powers said.
Pre-existing condition may have played a role
Denver Police haven’t revealed the exact circumstances in this case, but multiple sources told the Problem Solvers the man had to have one leg partially amputated. FOX31 has confirmed he remains hospitalized.
Sources told the Problem Solvers the man had a genetic disease, likely sickle cell trait, that police trainers may have known nothing about, and it was his pre-existing medical condition that made him vulnerable to a physical injury.
In an email, Denver Police told FOX31, “The Department remains concerned for him and is in contact with his family to provide support. For the sake of the recruit officer’s privacy, we are unable to provide his name, and due to HIPAA regulations, we do not have a condition to share at this time. DPD initiated a review of the circumstances, which is ongoing, and there is not an Internal Affairs investigation into this matter at this time.”
Case is remnant of Steelers’ Ryan Clark
More than one police officer told the Problem Solvers that this case reminded them of a 2007 football injury suffered by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
The Steelers were playing against the Denver Broncos in October 2007 when Clark was taken to a Denver hospital following the game after complaining of internal pain.
Clark had sickle cell trait, had to have his spleen and gallbladder removed and lost 40 pounds. He did resume his football career the following season, but he was never allowed by his coach to play at high altitudes again.
A Denver Police spokesman said recruits undergo a medical evaluation, but it’s done by the city’s Civil Service Commission before candidates enter the academy.
The executive director for the Civil Service Commission told FOX31 that Denver follows national guidelines to conduct pre-employment medical examinations, and the process includes a physical agility test and medical exam that must be passed before any candidate can be admitted to the academy.