Dayton Gets Real: Critical care training helping officers save lives in the field

DAYTON — When officers are in the field, time is of the essence. They are often the first people with the chance to help those with critical injuries, making their training more important than ever.

At the Dayton Police Academy, a training exercise changes quickly and puts recruits to the test.

Recruits are learning how to pack wounds, clear injured people’s airways and how to use a tourniquets to stop life-threatening bleeding.

“They have to respond to a medical situation, but put into a real environment where they have to decide the first important thing to deal with,” Lt. Matt Hickey, Dayton Police Academy commander, said.

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Officers had to administer first aid this week to a Sheriff’s deputy when he was hit by a runaway driver in Harrison Twp. That deputy shot the suspect twice in the arm and officers had to administer first aid to her as well before medics arrived. Both the deputy and the suspect did not have life-threatening injuries.

However, Dayton police officers have faced several situations where medical decisions had to be made quickly. A Dayton officer suffered a head injury after being shot in a confrontation with a theft suspect in September. His fellow officers put him in a patrol car and rushed him to the hospital.

In 2016, officers had to use a tourniquet to slow down the bleeding of another officer’s leg after he was badly injured by a driver that lost control on ice and hit his vehicle and then him. Officers then carried him to a waiting ambulance.

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Dr. Brian Springer, an emergency physician and medical liaison with the Dayton SWAT Team, helps train new recruits. He said officers are really the first medical responders now.

“There’s those platinum five to 10 minutes up front,” Springer said.

The changed training, originally designed to help fellow officers, has been used much more often to help badly injured members of the community survive.

“If you get that bleeding under control, keep their airway open and evacuated quickly to a higher level of medical care, you’ve markedly improved their chances of survival,” Springer said.

Springer said it wouldn’t be a bad idea for many workplaces to consider starting this type of training.