Better training could save lives
It should be a no-brainer to make sure all police officers are adequately trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). After all, cops are often the first ones to the scenes of car wrecks, shootings, and other potentially deadly events. And the sooner critically injured people get CPR, the better their chances of survival.
Yet several high-profile cases show that not all officers are competent in the lifesaving procedure. And even more are not qualified to operate AEDs (automated external defibrillators), which can save the lives of people stricken by sudden cardiac arrest.
“Police work regularly places officers in urgent situations with critically injured people,” Farzan A. Nahvi, an emergency medicine physician at New York University Langone Medical Center, said in an article in The New York Times. “If a person isn’t getting oxygen to his brain, permanent brain damage occurs after about four minutes, and death occurs within about six minutes.”
He adds that the average EMT response time in New York City is seven minutes, which makes the first responder’s capabilities in CPR even more vital.
In one well-publicized 2014 case, NYPD officer Peter Liang accidentally shot a man named Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project. As Gurley lay dying, his girlfriend futilely performed CPR while being coached by a 911 dispatcher. Liang later admitted that he thought Gurley’s girlfriend “was more qualified than me” in CPR.
An investigation into the death revealed that Liang and his partner both had CPR training at the Police Academy, but neither felt confident in performing it.
In another landmark case, 11-year-old Briana Ojeda died from an acute asthma attack in 2010, in part because the responding officer didn’t know CPR. She was the daughter of state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, and he sponsored a bill not only requiring adequate CPR training for police officers but also recertification every two years. Incredibly, the bill died in the state senate five times – due to funding concerns – before it was finally passed this year. It’s now known as “Briana’s law.”
Police “should not be afraid, or lack the training, to do what is necessary to try and save a life,” declares Ortiz.
Many cities and states throughout the nation have adequate CPR training and certification for their law enforcement officers, but it remains inconsistent.
“Police training protocols differ between each police department,” notes Danielle Thor, Director of Temple University EMS in Philadelphia. “For many departments it is required, but for others it may only be suggested.”
Some police departments simply don’t make emergency medical attention a priority. After the New Orleans PD was criticized for not doing enough to help shooting victims in a 2014 incident, a spokesman stated: “The police officer is a police officer. They’re not a nurse, they’re not a doctor. They get fundamental training in CPR, and that’s all they can do, if nothing else is taxing their time at that moment.”
AED training also important for cops
Many experts recommend that cops not only get trained in CPR but also in the use of AEDs. More than 325,000 Americans suffer a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year. Usually, the only way to get the heart beating properly again is by employing an AED, which uses an electrical impulse to basically jump-start the heart. Experts say that defibrillation within three minutes of a SCA improves the survival rate by a whopping 70 percent.
This is particularly relevant for police because of the increasing use of Tasers in subduing suspects. Some experts believe the shock that disables a person can also cause a potentially deadly arrhythmia. Meanwhile, defibrillators are becoming more common in workplaces, and many police departments are making them standard equipment in squad cars.
A National Institutes of Health study concluded, “The majority of police officers can be trained to use an AED safely and effectively within a three-hour AED course. During this course, they also improve on their basic lifesaving skills.”
Adequate training in CPR and AEDs would no doubt help fulfill the policemen’s motto, “to serve and protect” citizens at the highest level – by saving lives. That is also the goal of One Beat CPR. We offer CPR and AED training certified by the American Heart Association and the American Safety & Health Institute; we are also one of the nation’s largest distributors of AEDs and accessories. For more information, call us at 954.321.5305, toll free at 855.663.2328 or get in touch via our contact form.