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LEO-TEMS: Tactical EMS in the 'hot zone'

What are the issues associated with having a Law Enforcement Officer-Tactical EMS (LEO-TEMS) element in the hot zone?

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to welcome Sam Getz to the PoliceOne roster of writers. Getz, an officer with the Milton Township (Ohio) Police Department, is a member of the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) and a certified EMT/Paramedic who also serves as a Tactical EMS training consultant through his company, STS Consulting. Sam will write an occasional column in this space that addresses a variety of issues associated with Tactical EMS. It should be noted that the information provided here is the opinion of the author based upon his own personal practices and experiences. Be sure to check your own department’s P&Ps for all matters related to Tactical EMS.

During high-risk and tactical operations, it has become necessary to have medically-trained individuals present during the maneuver. Placement of medical personnel is usually determined by current SOPs, resources, liability concerns, budgets, and level of training. Medical staff can be utilized in the cold zone, warm zone, or hot zone, decisions based upon the makeup of the tactical team and the operation at hand. But what do you do if that medically trained individual is also a law enforcement officer?

A tactical, high-risk operation is a law enforcement situation, and it is a distinct advantage having an LEO-TEMS officer with a working knowledge of law enforcement special operations, mission-specific objectives, as well as trained in the administration of medical aid during hostile situations.

In tactical operations, the LEO-TEMS is qualified to utilize weapons and eliminates the need for a protection officer. This would allow other officers on the team to function in other roles. An LEO-TEMS qualified individual on tactical operations places the individual as close as possible to the area where injuries are most likely to occur, thus reduces the time to delivery of potentially lifesaving medical care for tactical law enforcement team members and for the public. An absolute necessity is making the weapons of an injured tactical officer safe, an LEO-TEMS officer is proficient in both firearms handling and administering medical aid.

Along with advantages, there are some very distinct disadvantages. It is unfortunate in a tactical operation that the medical mission may be subordinate to the overall law enforcement mission. The LEO-TEMS officer may be directed to delay or modify medical care until the tactical commander determines that rendering care will not jeopardize the overall mission. The daily duties of a law enforcement officer can be extremely intense and stressful, but when a LEO-TEMS officer is focused on the completion of the mission and suddenly thrust into the role of saving the lives of fellow team members, this can be very demanding and difficult to cope with.

As a final point, tactical teams are composed of a number of members with specific duties during a mission and team members must be capable of functioning in any number of roles. At anytime during a mission, the role of a team member may change as the mission chances. An officer may be a point man on the entry team, a cover officer, door man or part of the breeching team or perimeter squad. As a LEO-TEMS, you may be required to take up any one of these positions as the mission dictates. This can take the officer out of the role as a medical personal.

The role of a LEO-TEMS qualified individual in high risk, tactical missions has yet to be well defined. Only with the suggestions and guidance provided by tactical teams that use the LEO-TEMS concepts and political subdivisions will this question be answered. Until then, myself and the few others out there qualified to perform both roles will continue to provide the best and most comprehensive medical care to team members and civilians while serving and protecting them.

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