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I know the fire service EMS contingent is going to flame me for this, but I always thought EMS had more in common with law enforcement than the fire service.

OLD SAYBROOK – Police Chief Michael Spera would be facing a nearly $30,000 bill for overtime costs in the next few weeks but for officers’ generosity.

Almost every officer is training to become a certified emergency medical technician by taking 90 hours of classes for about two months after their shifts and on days off, without overtime pay.

Those who aren’t participating are already certified.

Think about it; high mobility rather than fixed locations, some degree of personal autonomy within the rank structure, strong communications and interpersonal skills, creative problem solving…

… all these things are part and parcel of EMS, and they seem to describe law enforcement far better than they do fireground operations. Even an interrogation and gathering patient history have a great deal in common.

Combined law enforcement/EMS isn’t a very common system model, but it is done in other places. Gretna, LA has had a dual role law enforcement/EMS system for many years, and I’m sure there are others.

Try as I might, the only negative thing I can say about this idea is that, at only 90 hours, their EMT training is only about half as long as it should be. The 1993 National Standard Curriculum for EMT-B was a minimum of 110 hours, and most schools did more than that. I doubt that implementation of the new National EMS Educational Standards would make the course shorter.

So what say you, readers? Does a law enforcement/EMS model make sense?

Comments - Add Yours

  • Erin

    This is just my personal experience: call me cynical, but the biggest difference between cops and EMS is attitude. Most people go into EMS to save the world. They might be full of themselves and overconfident, but their overall intentions are good. Most people go into law enforcement because they’re arrogant control freaks who like the power trip.

    • Anonymous

      I would hate to live around your cops, ours really are in it to help. Of course we live in a small rural county where most of the people are related, but not inbred.

      • Erin

        me too.. I’ve always thought that was part of them problem. It’s like they want everyone to think they’re badasses off of NYPD Blue, when they’re just traffic cops who occasionally bust a few teenagers with weed. It doesn’t help that I’m related to a couple of them.

  • Ruthcatrin

    Well, as a person who’s none of the above (other than a reader here), I don’t have a problem with the concept of both fire and law enforcement folks being “double certified” but I have to agree with Erin that I have my doubts as to the cops who’d using it (I’m sure there’s some wonderfull folks who became LEOs for the intent of helping people, I’ve just not met them), and I can see where having a firefighter who can do a quick assessment of a potential patient before dragging them out of the building might be useful.

  • Anonymous

    What say I? In my neck of the woods this is pretty much how it goes. Most of the Sheriffs deputies are trained EMT’s and have jump kits and O2 in their cruisers. This gives our volunteer squad a better response time to the scene. This is a great pairing for the community.

  • Anonymous

    At least we would be armed and securing our own scenes. Wouldn’t have to wait for armed personnel to arrive at an active shooter incident

  • Mmorsepfd

    I think they should train EMT’s to be police officers. I could do a lot more good with a nightstick than a blood pressure cuff most weekend nights.

  • Linda Wyatt

    I think it’s great that those cops all want to take the EMT class. And I think it’s a great idea, getting more people out there able to respond quickly.

    My one concern is whether there will be an attitude issue, in either direction. Some cops seem to have more of an “us vs them” attitude than I would prefer an EMT to have. And some civilians, for lack of a better word, don’t care for cops, at all. To put it mildly.
    Of course, anyone can be an asshole, not just cops. :-)

    I’m hoping that the group who WANT to be EMTs have good interpersonal skills, and that’s part of why they want to do it.

    For what it’s worth, I have a related problem with some fire based EMS, where a lot of firefighters are EMTs not because they want to be, but because it’s required in order to be a firefighter. We don’t need a lot of EMTs out there who really don’t want to be doing EMS. It does not engender the best attitude or patient care.

    • zeeke42

      This is the one concern I have. Some patients might withhold information that would affect their treatment based on the provider also being a police officer. Anything illegal drug related is the most obvious example.

      • Too Old To Work

        The Tenth Rule of EMS is that patients lie. Not always, not to everyone, but frequently they lie to EMS providers and doctors. And nurses. I don’t think that they are any more or less likely to lie to police officers who are also EMTs or paramedics.

  • Bobball

    We have some dual police-EMS agencies around here (Woodbury Police (MN), and Cottage Grove Police (MN)), to name a couple. In those communities the transport is largely provided by the fire department (who are mostly EMT-B staffed). The squads are set up with ALS equipment and do ALS first response. BLS patients are handed off to the Fire EMTs, and ALS patients, the medic rides with in the ambulance.

    I’ve trained some of their staff when they were in medic school (and was preceptor for a couple in the field). While similar, the tricky part for most cops is that interviewing a patient vs. a witness or suspect is different.

    My favorite choice is 3rd service or hospital-based EMS, but I agree that EMS shares more of it’s routine tasks and duties with the police compared to the fire service.

  • Medic Trommashere

    Sounds pretty good to me. At the same time, I’m used to the cops being EMT’s. It’s worked pretty well. They can get to scenes sometimes much quicker than we can, especially if we’re coming from a hospital and when the FD in volunteer systems are waiting for people to roll out the door.

  • Melliebelle12

    I’ve often said that LEOs should be at least first responders, if not EMTs. More often than not, they beat us to trauma scenes and cardiac arrests – they are usually mobile, and face it – their cars are faster than our trucks. If they had emergency medical training AND carried basic life support equipment, our patients could have appropriate care sooner.

  • Sandro Rettinger

    I’ve been thinking for a while that it might make sense to put AEDs in police cars. They kept hammering on how faster AED use improved patient outcome in EMT school, and the cops usually get there before we do, so…

    Assuming that’s actually true, it would make sense. :) Of course, they also told us that we had to c-collar and backboard pretty much everybody and I know how you feel about that one… ;)

    • Anonymous

      Minneapolis did just that, and doubled their cardiac arrest survival rate by doing it. It’s one of the most often-cited pieces of research supporting public assess defibrillation.

      • Sandro Rettinger

        Well, I guess it was a pretty good idea, then! :D

      • Bobball

        Sorry AD, but Minneapolis does not have AEDs on the police cars. In Minneapolis, First Response for medicals is primarily the fire department’s job (except assaults, shootings, stabbings, etc, and ‘baby not breathing’).

        That said, nearly all the suburbs around Minneapolis use police for EMS first response, either alone, or in conjunction with their fire departments. IN those areas, the police do indeed have AEDs, as they do arrive sooner.

  • Julie

    I used to be a cop here in MN, and part of becoming license-eligible was a simple requirement: First Responder or EMT training. Mind you, that was part of the education required of an aspiring LEO, but the requirements of the different departments varied. When I was hired, they did not require me to be certified at that time but recommended it and offered 1st R or EMT training as part of continuing education. We also carred AED’s in the squads.

  • Truckie1018

    Having LEO’s cross trained to be EMT-B’s is great idea. They typically crush everyone getting to the more serious calls and can render assistance faster. The places that would have the most benefit would be the rural areas as the more highly populated places seem to be saturated with first reponders of all kinds. The problems start on the less serious calls where some sort of illicit activity might be occuring. Fire and EMS are seen as a neutral party who is there to help and most will answer questions truthfully if persuaded the right way. LEO’s sort of inspire an us against them in poorer populations. Another problem arises with where does being a LEO end and being an EMT start. If a patient says something incriminating while an officer is acting as an EMT where does the line start and end?

  • Chip

    30 years ago, when Fire was getting into EMS, Law Enforcement didn’t want it because it didn’t fit their mission. At least that’s what we were told by our cops. They were too busy catching bad guys, I think it was because EMS involved icky stuff. Anyway 2 years ago we started putting AED’s in the Police cars. The younger guys are all for it and they respond gladly, the older guys…..not so much.

  • Reformedyankee

    Speaking from personal experience, I agree with AD and would say that it’s a good fit. I’ve spent approximately 20 years in EMS as and EMT-A, EMT-B and EMT-P. I’ve worked for third service EMS agencies, stayed through a nightmare merger with FD and watched the service I had planned on spending the rest of my career at ruined by lazy firefighters who don’t want to have to touch a patient. I got out of there and spent about 2 years as a flight medic before going back to ground EMS.

    I finally got sick and tired of being away from my wife and son for 24-48 hours straight and went to the police academy. Now, almost 2 years later, I’m a sworn officer as well as a paramedic and loving it. I respond on all EMS calls in the city as well as the LE calls. All of our local medics know me and I’ve been pulled in to help with patient care several times. In addition, I can definitely say that I’ve been treated as more of a “Brother” by my fellow cops than I was ever treated by firefighters.

  • DJMoore

    I’m not a cop or an EMT.

    My assumption, when dealing with medical personnel, is that our dealings are sacrosanct. My affairs are such that in practice, I really don’t care, but in principle I want to know that any information I reveal will be only be used to devise an appropriate treatment plan for me. (I’m pretty sure that EMTs don’t take the Hippocratic Oath, but it seems privacy is thoroughly ingrained in the entire medical community.)

    Cops live to find bad guys. Any thing you say can and will. Call my lawyer.

    Sure, getting sprayed with a firehose if I’m febrile and convulsing is probably not a good treatment plan, nor does a bag of D5W make a good fire extinguisher.

    But having to worry about giving a history without benefit of counsel?

    No. All due respect, AD, but — Bad plan.

    • Sandro Rettinger

      This is an aspect I hadn’t considered, but it’s a good point.

  • Brad Buckler

    Sounds like a very good plan to me, but it definitely has to be something the Officer/Deputy/Trooper WANTS to do, just as with Firefighters, you can train and certify someone to be an EMT, but you can’t make them do good patient care. I speak from a limited experience of 6 months so far, so take my commentary with a grain of salt.

    Brad B
    EMT-Basic/Entry Level Firefighter

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like a nice idea, our city already has AEDs in most squad cars. 8 out of 10 times, they beat us to the cardiac arrest calls. What scares me is what happened with fire based EMS. In my area paid EMS is either working as a firefighter/medic, or working dialysis transport. I would like to be a firefighter when I grow up, in fact that’s what got me in to EMS. But crosstraining forces people to learn something they might hate, and might not be good at. I see plenty of big dumb knuckle dragging firefighters who won’t splint a broken leg, but will give me a blood glucose at the drop of a hat, and a blood pressure of 120/80 even on a clearly poorly perfused patient. I worry what police/EMS could snowball in to. I really like crosstraining to a point. But I would hate to see fire/EMS and police/EMS and no EMS/EMS. Prehospital healthcare is important, and requires a lot of education, practice and attention. I am not saying that is what will happen, it just makes me a little nervous. I guess as long as it stays at a basic level then it should work out well.

  • Sween8704

    AD, Is this Old Saybrook, CT? In CT transporting ambulance services are often 3rd service volunteer or private much like LA. There is a law that states there must be a designated R1 (first responder) service. Any town that doesnt have a volunteer ambulance and/or FD that offers EMS, often used their police officers to fulfill this requirement.
    This works very well in other towns such as orange CT as it often takes 10-20 minutes to get Borg ambulance from a nearby city.

  • Colorado EMT

    My only concern would be for a police officer to emotionally and mentally separate restraining a patient for medical reasons and not using too much force. If someone is altered, would the police person be able to tone down his or her response or would they go into “cop mode”? I am sure there are many who could balance this very well.. but I have a feeling a few will go too far.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, police officers have a well-thought-out use of force continuum that outlines the minimum use of force necessary for a given situation. the fact that a few bad apples ignore it shouldn’t reflect on most other police officers who follow its guidelines.

  • Rick

    The Huntington, West Virginia area originally had their ambulance services under law enforcement back in the early 1970s. Huntington Police had the CSO program (Community Service Officer) and the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department had a program called STOP (Sheriff’s Technical Officer Patrol).

    Both were BLS ambulance operations (that later upgraded to Paramedic status) and they operated as a civilian component to the law enforcement agency. The EMTs were NOT cops. They had no police training, did not carry weapons, and did not wear the same color uniform as the law enforcement officers, but the ambulances were marked identical to the police cruisers.

    As far as I know, the service was successful and there weren’t a lot of internal problems between the cops and paramedics. The pay for a “civilian” employee was much lower than for a police officer, though, and there was no career ladder for EMS people.

    The city police ambulances were handed off to the Huntington Fire Department and the county squads morphed into a third service EMS agency in the early 1980s as police and sheriff administrations changed. In the late 80s, the city gave up their fire-based EMS to the third service operated by Cabell County.

    In the very beginning of police-operated EMS, there was a failed attempt to have the EMTs serve low priority court papers and subpoenas while not on EMS calls. Thuis didn’t work out at all.

    The other big issue with police EMS was wear and tear on the ambulances. Under the law enforcement model, the squads “patrolled” their jurisduction like the police cruisers did, and that racked up the miles on some very expensive vehicles. There was no station or crew quarters, either, so the EMTs spent the entire 8 hour shift driving around in the ambulance unless they were handling a call.

    • Anonymous

      “The other big issue with police EMS was wear and tear on the ambulances. Under the law enforcement model, the squads “patrolled” their jurisduction like the police cruisers did, and that racked up the miles on some very expensive vehicles. There was no station or crew quarters, either, so the EMTs spent the entire 8 hour shift driving around in the ambulance unless they were handling a call.”

      You’ve just described System Status Management perfectly. A great many supposedly “high performance” (note the sarcasm) believe this system is the most effective for ambulance deployment, and I have a hard time imagining a bigger farce ever perpetuated in EMS

  • 322

    I am a Police officer as well as a Intermediate EMT. I think it is good idea. First Responder might be better. In my rural area. We do quite a bit of medical standbys with EMS. Many Police call EMS sometime’s. For no reason. Other than they don’t want to screw with it. They could do some triage. Get CPR started sooner. Ect.