Saving Lives: Law Enforcement-applied Hemorrhage Control

Park Land Trauma Center

January 19, 2017

As both a trauma surgeon AND police Lieutenant with the Dallas Police Department, I spend an inordinate amount of time mitigating the aftermath of violence. While the path to violence may vary, there is one commonality that most deaths from violence share: hemorrhage. In both of my occupations, there is nothing more tragic than a death from bleeding except a death from bleeding that could have been prevented.

A hemorrhage is a unique killer because it does not discriminate. Whether you are black or white, Jew or gentile, gay or straight, republican or democrat or any other way we divide ourselves, in the operating room – where the drapes are up and the skin has been incised and moved out of the way – it’s impossible to distinguish any differences from the inside. A hole in a white man looks, bleeds and heals just like a hole in a black man. As a surgeon, I treat the injuries the same. In light of recent law enforcement support and protests – and whose lives matter – this fact that has struck me at my core; we are the same inside.

With this in mind, let’s focus on the tremendous impact law enforcement personnel can have in saving lives before a hemorrhage arrives at the trauma center. More than 200,000 major city law enforcement officers (LEOs) have been training and equipping their officers with hemorrhage control kits, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Hartford Consensus. In addition, many more, small- and medium-sized departments are taking this step as well. These life-saving treatment programs are made for use by those with little or no formal medical training at all. 

Take, for example, the tourniquet. As a surgeon, I hope every police department issues and trains its officers in its use. This life-saving, safe and easy to use mechanism can stop a life-threatening hemorrhage on an extremity such as a leg or arm. For a wound in a junctional area or in the trunk where bleeding is visible and a tourniquet won’t work, packing the wound with a hemostatic gauze product can be the difference between life and death; then do whatever you can to get the patient/victim/suspect to a trauma center as quickly as possible. Remember, stopping a hemorrhage keeps the person alive – period.

Hemorrhage control programs work.  If you institute them in your department, you will save lives. In Texas alone, more than ten LEOs have been saved by law enforcement-applied hemorrhage control in the last three years. In addition, imagine the difference a community might have responded to any of the controversial shootings that have rocked our profession over the last few years if the grainy, hard-to-perceive, cell-phone video showed not just a use-of-force, but the responding LEOs stopping the bleeding and literally saving that person’s life.

We’ve got work to do in healing the relationships we have with many of our communities; common ground has seemed elusive at best, impossible at worst. Yet one fact remains indisputable, we are all the same on the inside. To me, this seems like a pretty good place to start.

For more information visit http://www.bleedingcontrol.org. In addition, the United States Department of Justice, through the COPS office and through the Office of Justice Programs has also been an early supporter and adopter of law enforcement-based hemorrhage control programs. https://cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2844