Office of Citizen Complaints

Policy Recommendations

Reference: OCC # 0292-97; 0229-98; Disability Awareness Guide (2/98)
Investigated by Richard Kung and Helen Garza

SUBJECT: Transporting Persons who use Mobility Aids[1]

RECOMMENDATION: The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department

1) Re-issue and amend expired bulletin 96-196 (Transporting Prisoners in Mobility Devices) to incorporate recommendations specified in the Department's Disability Awareness Guide to require officers:

a) to contact Communications to arrange for transportation for a prisoner or suspect using a mobility aid, and who cannot, unassisted, transfer his or her weight to a police patrol car.

b) to insure that prisoners or suspects who must be transported in a mobility aid are secured with a 4 point mobility and securement and occupant restraint system with lap belt and shoulder harness.[2]

c) to contact Communications and arrange for transportation if the mobility aid cannot be folded or collapsed without disassembly.

d) to insure that mobility aids are transported along with the person.

2) Require officers to treat a fall or slip from a mobility aid as a medical issue and call an ambulance.

Improper lifting or movement of persons using mobility aids may cause injury to organs, joints and damage to medical equipment. Devices are often equipped with life support systems that should not be disconnected by an untrained person. Many users of mobility aids are unable to transfer from their wheelchairs to a vehicle seat and are therefore required to remain in their devices during transport. The aids are generally not designed to act as a vehicle seat. In addition, forces experienced inside a vehicle may greatly challenge the stability of individuals with reduced postural control and jeopardize their safety. [3] More than one-third (35%) of the injuries to wheelchair users is due to improper or lack of securement in motor vehicles. [4]

A mobility aid user was required to drag himself from the ground into a police wagon. He was then transported in the back of the wagon without seatbelts or a securing mechanism. In another case the officer dumped complainant from his wheelchair onto a busy sidewalk, causing complainant to lie on his back in the wheelchair. The officer left the scene without requesting assistance for complainant.

Case Investigated by: RICHARD KUNG and HELEN GARZA, Investigator
Prepared by: RIVER GINCHILD ABEJE, Policy and Outreach Specialist
Approved by: MARY C. DUNLAP, Director
Date: June 25, 1999

[1] A mobility aid is a wheelchair, or any mobile seating device, either manually or battery powered, that is used to support and convey a disabled person. [2] California Department of Transportation Specifications (1999). [3]The Affects of Securement Point Location on Wheelchair Crash Response, Gina E. Bertocci, et al. (1996) Seated Postural Stability of Wheelchair Passengers in Motor Vehicles, Derek G. Kamper, et al. (1996); Wheelchair Users Injuries and Deaths Associated with Motor Vehicle Related Incidents, [4] U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (1997).

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