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Black man from Mattapan arrested for OUI but he'd just had a stroke; by the time doctors figured it out 12 hours later, the damage was permanent

WBUR talks to Al Copeland of Mattapan about his case, which Boston settled last year by paying him and his wife $1.3 million.


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that medical providers there also assumed Al was drunk and left him in the emergency room for seven more hours.

It's not only police that's a problem.

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Did you then continue to read the story to learn that, unlike BPD, Tufts actually admitted its fault and took steps to keep something like this from happening again?

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But BPD is tied up on OUIL booking and arrest procedures for court nonsense. Not saying it would be easy or legal, but if there was a way to simply get a BAC on the street that would hold up in court, incidents like this could be avoided. Or, officers could always bring someone asleep behind the wheel (whether diabetic, drunk or post-stroke) to the hospital where it is actually written in the law that the doctor MUST take a BAC test when asked by the police.

One of the "reforms" that never gets talked about for some reason is the arrest/booking/warrant systems that this country has in place. Everything seems to be focused on individual cops and HR issues with them (which is fine but probably won't root out basic problems with policing). Situations like this are part of this problem.

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Yes, they apologized, added social workers and a DEI center. How does any of it help recognize stroke symptoms in unresponsive patients? Do social workers test for ischemic stroke biomarkers?

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Stroke Heroes Act Fast!

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Medical providers are also at fault here, but I’m sure the “presenting problem” reported by police was that Mr. Copeland was drunk. I can almost bet they didn’t even tell medical providers he fell, struck his head and vomited. The two police officers and sergeant are the root cause of this bias. Three adults who have probably been drunk more than once in their lifetime, saw an elderly man and couldn’t ascertain that he was having a medical emergency versus being intoxicated. I hope this isn’t the Department’s best or brightest.

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He had to give up his job with the MBTA. And [Copeland] is still having trouble walking or even enjoying a meal.

Al Copeland was sold short. Loss of income + medical expensive treatment?

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Think horses, not zebras. You see a guy slumped in a car and non-responsive and probably 99%+ of the time it's because he's drunk. Tufts Medical came to the same initial conclusion and they probably have an even higher duty of care.

It's just that in this case, it really was zebras. And since the police can't force an unresponsive person to take a blood test without a court order, there probably wasn't any reasonable way for them to come to the less likely, but correct, conclusion that Copeland had suffered a stroke.

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[Police] wrote in their report that they smelled alcohol, even though Al says he hasn’t had a drink since 1995.

I wonder if that lie about “smelling alcohol” was a contemporaneous lie, or a lie inserted after the fact as consciousness of guilt to cover up a horrible mistake?

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It means nothing in the long run.

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…then why is it noted in the first place? Sounds like a cover your ass note to me.

How do you smell alcohol on a person that isn’t there?

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That’s what I’m saying.

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…then what accounts for the falsehood? How do you mistake a person’s scent/breath as smelling like alcohol when it clearly wasn’t there? Like, we all know what it smells like when someone’s been drinking.

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Some smell like weed, cologne, masking agents for weed, booze, hairspray, cigars, pipes, cigarettes,mildew, etc etc. I’m not an expert on smells so I’d have to give my best guess if someone asked me what the car smelled like.

Not an easy answer to this but lying isn’t going to help you cover anything up, I do know that.

You know what though you could be right. They could have been lazy and just copied and pasted the last OUIL report they wrote. Who knows. But I do know that lying about smelling alcohol isn't going to benefit them or cover anything up, especially when saying that actually isn't covering something up, but exposing you to more liability.

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- no empty bottles
- no pills
- no empty prescription bottles
- no paraphernalia
- no residue
- no field sobriety/BAC

With the amount of times cops have lied about a perceived presence of the smell of marijuana to justify reasonable suspicion, why would it surprise anyone if the cops on scene decided that Copeland “smelled like alcohol” as a pretense to arrest rather than transport to the ER?

And they didn’t notice that after Copeland was separated from his car and at the station that he no longer smelled like whatever they smelled at his car?

Being mistaken about intoxication vs stole-induced medical distress? That’s something Being mistaken about intoxication and the smell of alcohol? Wow what a strange coincidence. Must be totally unconnected.

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And I assume this guy acted "drunk" too. I think the guy should get 10 million dollars don't get me wrong. But you don't know cops very well if you think they want to arrest anyone for OUIL when they don't have to, especially an older man who isn't going to have illegal drugs or weapons or something else a racist/lying cop is going to look for (they could get that on an inventory search if they just sent him to the hospital at the scene anyway). I mean your legal standard for being drunk includes a lot of things: slurred speech, glassy eyes, loss of coordination, refusal to answer questions, refusal to do field sobriety tests, etc, etc.

Weed arrests of young black males often lead to more weed, guns, warrants, etc. Racist cops will use these situations like you mention to bend/break the law to find other things. Drunk Drivers though? Very few cops (especially ones responding to the driver being asleep) are going to go out of their way to arrest someone when it is much easier to send them to the hospital and have them do all the work for you.

I mean, how many OUIL arrests turn out like this? I'm guessing its 1/10,000? How do you think you would do making these decisions? would you be 10,000 for 10,000?

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You might find hell on your own!

Your testalying act got tiresome ten years ago. Grow up.

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Your step daddy invented the court system didn’t he?

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