By Mary O’KEEFE
A patrol unit conducts a routine traffic stop. Suddenly the driver jumps out and begins to fire his weapon toward the police, who return fire.
“Partner, are you hit?” asks an officer.
“Yes,” comes the answer.
The gunman runs into a parking structure and out of sight. The uninjured officer pulls his partner to safety as the injured officer radios the description of the suspect and the direction in which he fled.
Normally this is when police wait for paramedics to help the fallen officer, but not anymore … at least not for Glendale police who have participated in tactical medical training.
This week, 30 GPD officers were in a classroom being trained by Hawthorne Police Dept. personnel in first response procedures including, tourniquets, trauma dressing, chest seal, torso trauma and airway ventilation.
The training was supported by Chief Robert Castro who witnessed the value of this training while chief of police in Glendora, his job prior to coming to Glendale.
“During a major disaster, fire [departments] will be stretched thin,” he said.
The program does not equip police officers to be paramedics but will offer enough training so they can triage victims until the fire department arrives or until fire is allowed into a police area.
“We had a stabbing here a couple of months ago. The victim was lying here [in front of the Isabel Street police station],” Castro said of one example of when the training would have helped.
In late September 2015 a man who had been stabbed made his way to the GPD station at 131 N. Isabel St. in Glendale and asked for help. It was later discovered there was another victim who had been stabbed several times at the nearby courthouse. That victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man was taken to the hospital where he survived.
“[Often] police arrive on the scene first,” Castro said.
In those few minutes before paramedics arrive trained officers would be able to assess the medical situation, render help and inform paramedics as they arrive concerning victims’ needs.
In other situations officers must secure the area before it is safe for fire to respond. Having tactical medical officers would help get much needed attention to not only injured officers but to civilian victims as well.
Castro also sees this program as a way fire and cops can work together. A medical doctor oversees programs like tactical medical training in Glendale.
“We have signed a contract [approved by the Glendale City Council] with Dr. Angelica Loza of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital to oversee all of our programs,” Castro added.
Hawthorne Police Dept. began its training about eight years ago as a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons And Tactics Team) program since they are the officers that would most likely be the first to arrive at a scenario involving an active shooter.
“Since then we have encompassed the [entire] department,” said Lt. Ti Goetz, Hawthorne S.W.A.T. commander.
Goetz was part of the training in Glendale this week. The Hawthorne Police Dept. has trained many other departments including Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Redondo, Gardena and now Glendale to name a few. They continue to get calls for training.
“Especially since San Bernardino,” Goetz added.
San Bernardino was the site of recent terrorism violence that left 14 dead and 21 wounded. The two shooters later died in gunfire with police.
During the training, officers are taught to create three zones: a hot zone where danger including gunfire is occurring. The warm zone is where there may be some danger but it is safe enough for fire to approach. And the cold zone is far away from danger.
“Part of the difference [in what] we offer is there are plenty of medical [personnel], like ambulance [operators], who can do medical [response] but none of them are cops,” Goetz said.
He said it was important that police train police in this program because they understand what officers face in a variety of scenarios including mass shootings.
“[Law enforcement] gets on scene a lot times and we have to wait,” Goetz said. “You [feel] helpless. I want to help.”
And that, according to Castro, is why this program is important. It gives police officers more medical training and will help in creating a more cohesive emergency response team.
Glendale officers in the program are given a medical bag that include items to help with tourniquets and wounds.
“The officers will have these bags with them all the time, off duty as well,” Castro said.
And many of the officers are planning to go beyond this week’s training to continue to get their EMT [emergency medical training]; in fact, one of the GPD officers is already a paramedic.