When law enforcement officers sustain life-threatening injuries, it is usually in the form of a penetrating wound – from a knife or other sharp object, or from a gunshot.
Often, with such wounds, seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Many officers have at least minimal first aid training but few are beyond the first responder level.
So, when an officer is wounded, he or she has to hope trained personnel get there quickly.
Now, however, two officers from Louisiana are working to dramatically increase the odds for survival, one class at a time.
This week the New Albany Police Department, with cooperation from the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and other agencies, hosted a two-day training session in what amounts to combat trauma medicine.
“If something really bad happens you need to know how to respond, how to stop the bleeding,” Lt. Eddie Hawkins with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said.
The instructors are Craig Menefee and Joey Presley, both from the Shreveport, La. area. They have experience working in law enforcement and firefighting, are deputy sheriffs and work with the Special Response Team there.
One of them got idea for this training when he was a young firefighter and saw a Special Response Team in his area trying to arrest suspect. Two officers and one suspect shot in the process; one officer died. “I said there was no need for him to die, and that’s when I really got interested in this,” Menefee said.
They have been doing some training sessions like this in other areas but the program is still relatively new and they hope publicity will increase demand for their classes.
New Albany’s police chief is one of the first to really push the program, they said.
Even though the training is new, the two-day session drew nearly 50 participants from a variety of law enforcement agencies throughout the north half of the state, some from other parts and even a few from Alabama. The classes were held at the local Troop F District Office of the Highway Patrol.
The Shreveport sheriff’s office and fire department fully support the instructors’ offering the training, they said.
And also sponsoring the training is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Gulf Coast Region of which we are a part.
“All of this class is law enforcement but some have firefighters and other emergency responders,” Presley said.
The nature of the situations officers may find themselves in means they need more than just medical training because they may be in immediate danger themselves. During the detailed two-day sessions participants learn about skills such as threat suppression, bleeding control, rapid extraction from a threatened area, assessment of the injury and transportation to an emergency facility. Important considerations to deal with include major bleeding, airway management and respiration.
Although treatment will vary from situation to situation, they say tourniquets (with pressure bandages) are not used nearly enough and can be lifesaving.
With completion of the course, participants are given small medical packs they can keep in their vests that contain basic tourniquets and trauma bandages.
Chief Robertson said he wants to get them back to train all officers in New Albany and not just the few who were able to participate this week.
“They are here at no cost to us and we are really thankful to have them,” he said. “This is really high-caliber training.”
“There is a two-fold benefit for the police department and sheriff’s department,” Robertson said. “Not only will officers be saved but if something like a school shooting happens we would have a much better chance of saving more.”
“Now there’s a 30-percent window of victims not saved,” Presley said. “This will change that. But it’s tough to get cops to learn medicine; they think they just do law enforcement.”
Robertson and the instructors mean to try nonetheless because the need for and importance of this type of training is only going to grow.
The chief said, “In last three to five years there has been an increase in officer-involved shootings.” While he did not have the exact figures he estimated it to be 20 to 25 percent and news reports almost seem to show mass shootings on a weekly basis.
“We want officers to be able to support themselves and others, medically,” Menefee said. “If anything we teach will save a life, that’s enough for us.”
New Albany Police Sgt. Clay Hogue demonstrates putting easily adjustable tourniquet on instructor Joey Presley.
Craig Menefee displays one of the small med packs containing bandages and tourniquets.