New Policy Sending County Police To Emergency Medical Calls

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD – Anne Arundel County police are now responding to emergency medical calls countywide.

The calls are traditionally a responsibility of the fire department. Police officials claim the change, made in the past month, will save lives.

When a 911 call has been received and a person has been reported dead, police officers respond quickly if there is any possibility the person may be alive, said police spokesman Lt. T.J. Smith.

“What we’re saying is, ‘This is a call we need to get to quickly,’ and we’re erring on the side of saving a life,” Smith said. “If we’re dealing with a situation where it’s unsure whether a person is dead or not, we need to get there as soon as possible.”

Smith said the move was a change in “language” rather than policy. Before the change, he said, there was always a “possibility” that people who had been reported as dead might still be alive.

The county’s largest police union is skeptical of the new procedure. O’Brien Atkinson, president of the county’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, said that while he understands the importance of saving lives, staffing in some police districts is already thin and this change could divert needed resources.

“It’s hard to argue against, (but) that same officer may be needed … to back up another officer in an emergency situation,” Atkinson said. “We have more firefighters than police officers in this county — it’s tough to justify.”

There are around 700 police officers in the county, compared to some 850 paid firefighters and another 680 volunteer firefighters.

The approach is not entirely new. Officers in the police department’s Southern District, who are equipped with automated external defibrillators, have been responding to cardiac arrest calls for the past few years. In many cases, officers have successfully revived patients, fire department spokesman Lt. Russ Davies said.

Davies said that the department is in favor of the change, noting that time is of the essence in such cases.

“Those guys are on the street, they’re in areas where they are the closest person to provide (care),” he said.

While not all county patrol officers carry defibrillators, all have received training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, police spokesman Justin Mulcahy said.

Smith said the change would not stretch staffing. If a call turns out to be for an individual who is reported to be dead on arrival, police are required to respond anyway, he said.

“If we’re around the corner and we get a call — we’re going to respond to it,” Smith said. “We’re not going to drag our feet when someone needs medical attention.”

From The Capital Gazette

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