Naloxone, or Narcan, can save the life of a person who is overdosing on an opioid such as heroin. Lately, there has been controversy as some police departments have begun training officers how to administer Narcan to individuals should the situation become necessary. Some believe this measure enables addicts. Some, including a great many in law enforcement, believe administering a drug should be an exclusive function of a trained medical professional such as an Emergency Medical Technician. I’ve been shocked at emotion behind some of these arguments, some of which convey zero ambivalence. As a former law enforcement officer, I realize I can be predisposed to agree with those who carry the badge and my opinions can be viewed as less than objective. In this post, I want to be completely clear that I believe any police officer that objects to carrying Narcan is dead wrong.
Example: An officer responds to a call for a subject who went into cardiac arrest at the dinner table. The officer runs into the house and finds the male subject non-responsive. The wife is screaming, the kids are crying, tensions are high. The officer immediately administers CPR or uses an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The officer does not ask the wife if the subject recently snorted cocaine. The officer does not stop to inquire if the subject took meth. An individual is in distress and the first responder happened to be a police officer, not an EMT. Period.
Now, I can understand how the officer can feel differently when a drug must be administered intravenously, which is sometimes the case with Narcan (there is also a nasal version). But, I’ve seen many officers argue through comments on social media pages that the administering of Narcan is “enabling” or is “the job of an EMT”. With all due respect, those arguments are bogus.
As a police officer, it was not my job to evaluate the lifestyle choices one made that led him or her to be in distress. Much like when I was a Secret Service agent, it was not my job to judge the political stances of those I had sworn to protect. In fact, as the Secret Service protects visiting heads of state, I’m certain I protected dictators from third-world nations who were probably guilty of mass killings. It’s not a pleasant reality, but it’s the job and sometimes the job means you reserve judgement when you are on duty.
Can you imagine police officers responding to a scene and refusing to perform CPR on an individual because she ate cheeseburgers three times a day and let herself become a prime target for a heart attack? Or an officer putting the AED back in the bag because a the person requiring assistance may have had too many drinks and fell down the stairs in his house? Where is the line drawn? Can an officer be slow to call for an ambulance if a drunk driver crashes into a tree? Is an incident involving marijuana okay, but cocaine is not? Is a meth addict worth saving, but not a heroin addict? What about the person who suffered from chronic pain and accidentally got hooked on pills? These are not choices for any first responder, including a police officer, to make. The choice was already made when the oath to protect was taken. You save lives with the tools available. You save lives and put your judgment aside.
The bottom line is you save lives. That’s the job.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology