By Warren Wilson
It only makes sense that cops have training and equipment to intervene in medical emergencies. At least in my area, we often beat the ambulance to medical calls. Ambulances and fire trucks are necessarily heavy and slow compared to our relatively quick and nimble patrol vehicles.
With that in mind, it does no good for a cop to be on scene standing around waiting for folks with the better training and equipment to arrive. As administrators, we need to issue our cops tourniquets, chest seals, shears, pressure bandages and Narcan, as well as provide them with a high level of training to use that gear effectively.
We also need to equip them with the ability to carry those items on their duty gear. That ability is imperative not only for officer safety but for that of their partners and the public.
We are in yet another cycle of lawlessness and anti-cop sentiment. This country experienced eras like this in the 1880s-90s, 1920s-30s and 1960s-80s. Each one of these eras is more intense and lengthier than its predecessor. We should not expect relief anytime soon. Our only recourse is preparation via training and equipment.
Active shooter response
Law enforcement’s response to active shooter calls is ever-evolving. Active killing events have happened all over the world and go back nearly a century. I was in the police academy when the infamous North Hollywood robbery/shooting happened. There was a lot of talk, but I don’t recall any actual training being offered on the topic at the time.
A few years later, I was a small-town police chief when Columbine happened. That’s when I attended my first active shooter response training by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s excellent tactical team. There was a radical shift from waiting until there were enough resources to get two, three, or four cops together, enter, and stop the threat. We were taught to leave victims where they were and not render aid until after the threat was neutralized. That tactic was an improvement over past philosophies but has evolved into something much better.
The most recent and arguably, most valuable, advancement in active killer response has been in front-line trauma medicine provided by cops. This most recent iteration of active shooter training allows for one or two officers to stay behind and render aid as the rest of the team continues toward the threat. That decision is based on many factors: The number of officers, their capabilities, their distance from the threat and many others.
Lives will undoubtedly be saved by this tactical advancement, if and only if, officers have training in traumatic bleeding control and the corresponding equipment on their persons.
Another reason it’s so important for officers to have equipment and training on traumatic blood loss is that non-law enforcement emergency services (fire department and EMS) are not allowed to respond to a scene until it’s deemed to be safe. Those folks are unarmed and don’t have body armor. It may take several minutes or even hours to clear a facility to allow for fire and EMS to enter. Law enforcement must have the training and gear to provide aid to the victims. Lives will be saved.
Naloxone (generic for what is more commonly known as Narcan) has saved tens of thousands of lives that we know of. Officers have been using intranasal Narcan in their vehicles for years. Recently there’s been another push to keep those units on the duty belt or ballistic vest in a proper carrier. Seconds count in these emergencies and running back to the car to get equipment can cost lives.
Cop med stuff
As much as cops typically fight any kind of change, it’s been rewarding to see the profession take a higher-profile role in emergency medicine. We arrive on scene first way too often to just stand around and wait for help to get there. Law enforcement officers having emergency medical training and equipment on their person is essential to public safety.
About the author
Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with the Enid Police Department in Oklahoma. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.