Why police offers do not render first aid to shooting victims
The policy should, I think, be to render first aid to all shooting victims as soon as it is safe to do so: all victims, whether police, by-standers, or perpetrators. Instead, police often simply stand by and watch as gunshot victims bleed out. Richard Pérez-Peña reports in the NY Times that this response is generally not a policy but the default action when there is no policy:
After the police in Tulsa, Okla., released video footage of an officer fatally shooting an unarmed man, and then standing back rather than tending to the man’s wounds, many people had the same reaction as a local activist, Marq Lewis, who voiced outrage that “they let him lay there two-plus minutes, bleeding.”
Anger at the treatment of the man, Terence Crutcher — not only his shooting last Friday, but also how officers behaved afterward — echoed concerns over other recent cases, mostly involving black males who died at the hands of the police. Notably, when Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun, was shot to death in 2014 in a park in Cleveland, officers stood around for several minutes, waiting for an emergency medical team and offering no first aid.
So what should officers do? Experts in policing agree that the way officers respond, or fail to, is often a problem, but they say that such failures are not necessarily the fault of the officers, and that law enforcement agencies are starting to address them.
“It is reasonable for people to assume that when it is safe for the officers to do so, that they would render first aid to somebody they’ve just shot,” said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief who is president of the Police Foundation, a research group that advises law enforcement agencies. “But a lot of departments do not have policies that clearly articulate the officer’s responsibilities in that situation, and some have no policy at all.”
This year, the Police Executive Research Forum, another research group, issued a list of 30 use-of-force policies that police departments should adopt, including a requirement that officers render first aid when they can. Officials and rank-and-file officers have raised objections to other recommendations on the list, but not to that one, said Chuck Wexler, the group’s executive director.
“Cops have to be able to pivot immediately from using deadly force to trying to save a life,” said Mr. Wexler, a former police officer. “That is tough, we know that, but it’s what’s needed, and it’s not happening.”
Officers get first-aid training at police academies, but experts say it is often rudimentary, and not reinforced through their careers. A New York City officer, Peter Liang, who was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a man in an apartment house stairwell, said he did not give the man CPR because he had not been properly trained in the procedure, a claim the department upheld.
Even when agencies do instruct officers to give first aid, as many police departments in large cities do, officers often lack the training or equipment to handle gunshot wounds.
“It’s typically geared toward, you come across an auto accident, or someone is having a heart attack or choking,” said William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, a coalition of police officer unions. “If there’s a gunshot wound, the typical training is for the officer to call for medical help.”
Some agencies have increased medical training in recent years, and others, like the police departments in Cleveland and Los Angeles, have equipped officers with trauma kits that contain items such as tourniquets, bandages and sterile gloves. . .
Continue reading. Regarding the last paragraph, it’s unclear why the police officers who shot Tamir Rice, age 12, did not use their trauma kits.
Interest that Alice Speri, in her article in The Intercept that lists eight essential policies on the use of force, does not include any police on aiding victims. The eight policies she names:
- Require officers to de-escalate situations before resorting to force
- Limit the kinds of force that can be used to respond to specific forms of resistance
- Restrict chokeholds
- Require officers to give verbal warning before using force
- Prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles
- Require officers to exhaust all alternatives to deadly force
- Require officers to stop colleagues from exercising excessive force
- Require comprehensive reporting on use of force