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Councilwoman Springsteen Letter to Gov. Jared Polis re Use of Ketamine by Law Enforcement

Anita Springsteen, Esq.

P.O. Box 19700

Denver, CO 80219


Governor Jared Polis

Office of the Governor

State of Colorado

136 State Capitol Building

Denver, CO 80203


July 29, 2020


Dear Governor Polis:

I am writing to ask you stop another death like Elijah McClain’s by issuing an executive order to stop the use of Ketamine/chemical restraint, which is improperly being used for law enforcement purposes.  Not another day can go by with a state policy that allows this abuse of power and denial of civil liberties.  Protestors will boil over if Colorado leaders turn a blind eye after being put on notice if this tragedy happens again.

It is clear Ketamine injection caused the death of Elijah McClain, and also caused the need for Advanced Life Support for Elijah McKnight and Jeremiah Axtell.  KUNC reported that Ketamine has been used in Colorado at least 902 times in the past two years.  They found that 17% of Ketamine injections result in complication and that 1 in 5 victims must be intubated.  Fox 31 has reported on the serious consequences of this policy for nearly a year, which prompted a national petition signed by millions.  How many deaths or serious injuries have there been?  How many must there be to investigate?

West Metro Fire District records show that since 2016, its first responders have used Ketamine on average every 4 days.  Alarmingly, the use is rapidly increasing in frequency.  West Metro has used Ketamine every 1.4 days since the George Floyd protests began.  This begs the question, is Ketamine the new “knee in the neck”?  And what is the relationship with law enforcement?

The American Society of Anesthesiologists and its vice president, Dr. Randall Clark, issued a statement on July 15, 2020 warning: “The American Society of Anesthesiologists firmly opposes the use of ketamine or any other sedative/hypnotic agent to chemically incapacitate someone for a law enforcement purpose and not for a legitimate medical reason.”  The ASA does not endorse the use of Ketamine outside of a hospital setting and careful monitoring, as it is a potent analgesic.

Potential Vice-Presidential candidate, Congresswoman Karen Bass, questioned U.S. Attorney General Barr about the McClain case and the use of Ketamine to subdue civilians, and especially people of color, during Barr’s testimony before the House Judicial Committee yesterday.  The Attorney General was unaware of this practice.  But the nation is finally waking up to this dirty little secret and shocking civil rights abuse.

Dr. Kimberly Portzline, PharmD, MBA, (who endorses this letter) has done extensive research on Ketamine policy and medicine.  She discovered that the originating 2009 study that is used as justification has been disavowed by its original publishers, the American College of Emergency Physicians.  “Excited delirium”, used to justify sedation, is not a medically accepted term and not part of the DSM V.  Please find attached the 2009 White Paper and the 2016 ACEP disavowal.

Even so, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who issues the waivers, is not acting to stop this.  This power to suspend a citizen’s right to informed medical consent should not rest with the CDPHE.

I video recorded and witnessed the use of Ketamine on a civilian who was compliant, calm, and cooperative in January 2020 – so I have first-hand experience with the problem.  Most people who are victims of this policy are not fortunate enough to have video proof of misuse, so this must serve as a wake-up call.  We have a duty to protect those people who have no way to protect themselves.

Although I am a City Councilwoman in Lakewood, I have been unsuccessful in garnering clear support of this issue from other city leadership.  In fact, there are continuing efforts to silence and intimidate me.  However, I will not remain silent with this knowledge that can save lives and prevent the grief that Elijah McClain’s mother experiences each day.

Please help me to prevent the next Elijah and issue an executive order stopping this alarming policy.  Please also launch an investigation into the cases in which civilians have been injected with Ketamine thus far.  We must get to the bottom of this.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,



Anita Springsteen, Esq.


Endorsement: Dr. Kimberly Portzline, PharmD, MBA


Cc: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

       American Civil Liberties Union

       Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser



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