Well, not quite, but the West Hartford Police Department made certain that participants in the Connecticut SWAT Challenge understood how important it is for a police officer to be able to preform casualty care.

Throughout the 3-day event, WHPD continually introduced rescue, casualty evacuation and treatment challenges into the training scenarios. This forced Tactical-LEOs, a colloquialism used to describe a law enforcement officer trained in the arts of SWAT, to deal with situations normally handled by an EMT.

The importance of police provided medical care isn’t unique. Just as the Columbine High School shooting helped to shift the methods of tactical response, so too have the mass shootings of Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colorado invigorated the need for officer first-aid.

Officer Brian Wallace, a former corpsman now tactical medic, pointed out one of the reasons for CT Challenge’s emphasis on medical training. “Unlike the military, unarmed medics may not be able to enter a hostile situation. Some cities or states have them waiting until the scene’s secure…it really depends on what the law says.” This means the lives of American citizens may depend on an officer’s ability to apply a tourniquet or position a victim’s airway while other members subdue the assailant(s).

“Unfortunately, some of these teams have first-hand knowledge on how critically important this immediate medical care can be,” said Lt Jeremy Clark, Emergency Services Unit Commander for WHPD, and director of the nation’s second largest tactical officer competition. Lt. Clark was referring to some of the participant’s being part of the response teams involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing. or both.

In order to meet the needs of the surrounding communities, the University of Connecticut Health Center, working in conjunction with military volunteers versed in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, offered medical training for participants prior to the commencement of the competition. “We give them hands-on trauma training before putting them through a series of stressful active shooter and mass casualty exercises,” said Navy SEAL-Medical Officer Chris Thompson. He spoke as the blare of an evacuation alarm echoed through a blacked out abandoned multi-story building where one of exercises took place.

Dr. Richard Kamin, UCONN’s Emergency Medical Services Program Director led the medical training team. “We do this every year and each year it grows,” said Kamin regarding the daylong medical portion of the program. Although most police officers understand the need to immediately initiate medical care at the point of injury few have the opportunity to train at a level commensurate with the dangers they face everyday.

“These are soldier skills that every officer needs,” said Sgt Chris Chappell. As a Ranger veteran turned SWAT officer, Chappell’s seen combat on the streets of Panama, Iraq and America, so he’s appreciative of his colleagues embracing the idea of performing self-aid and buddy-aid. We should all be. Because as troops come home the possibility for terrorist activity on our streets increases, and the lives these officers save might be our own.