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Greensboro police put through medical training to reduce use of force, handle influx of medical calls

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The historic rise of calls for service from first responders across the country has opened the door for deeper training for law enforcement in Greensboro to help EMS and firefighters identify medical-related situations.  

Guilford County EMS and Greensboro firefighters reported that they have seen a sharp increase in calls related to people having a stroke, seizure, dealing with dementia or another unknown medical problem.

Those calls have begun to bleed over into the Greensboro Police Department with citizens calling for police assistance when someone begins to act out.  

Greensboro firefighters explained to a group of rookie police officers on Monday that “a lot of people are either delaying or postponing or canceling medical diagnosis or treatments that they need…the chances have never been higher that you will have to respond to a scene that is actually caused by a medical-emergencies.”  

To help Greensboro officers, firefighter Hannah Johnson and Guilford County EMS paramedic Ashley Dunn, created a Medical Assistance Program.  

Johnson spent more than 80 hours studying cases from across the country related to law enforcement having some type of interaction with a person experiencing a medical emergency. In some of those cases, law enforcement had not properly been trained on how to deal with someone, and the situation took a turn for the worst.  

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every situation looks like a nail,” Johnson explained.  “So we want to give these officers a new tool in cases that could involve a medical emergency.” 

The course has only been offered to a group of two rookie cadets with the Greensboro Police Department. These are people who have gone through basic training and have spent at least two months on the streets.  

“We want to get them in their early years of training so we can help establish good practices and hopefully they can pass it along to others,” Dunn said.

The course covers a variety of medical issues that law enforcement officials could run into when responding to a call for police. The common victims are diabetics, dementia patients, autistic individuals, someone experiencing a stroke or someone who is dealing with a certain trauma.  

The hope for the course is that it will help officers identify why an individual may be acting erratic or non-compliant with their commands on scene.  

For example, if an individual is showing signs of being drunk, but does not smell of alcohol, they may be showing early signs of a stroke.  

If a person is experiencing a fit of rage, is acting out violently or is non-responsive to commands, it’s possible they could be dealing with a diabetic episode.

“If you don’t recognize until the very, very end that you need immediate medical attention, it’s going to take up it’s still going to take us 20 minutes to get to you from High Point,” Dunn said.

The two groups will be providing feedback about the course and how it has helped them in the field. Over time, it will be given to more law enforcement officers.  

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