Police + Calls for Service = The Unexpected

Several years ago while working as a patrol officer on the overnight shift, I was dispatched as a back-up unit on a prowler call in a residential area. The complainant wanted us to check on a man who was seen near one of the homeowner’s bedroom windows. When I arrived, sure enough, there was our suspect staggering beside the home’s fence.

The primary officer had already stopped the subject and was performing a protective frisk. The man was 6 foot 3 or taller and stocky—strong like someone who works daily with his hands rather than muscular from lifting weights. He was middle aged, and wore glasses.

After the officer finished his protective search of the subject and found nothing dangerous, it was clear that this individual must be intoxicated. His speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, had watery eyes, and seemed disoriented. Working midnights in an urban area, this was a typical call. The homeowner had never seen the subject before and simply wanted him removed from the property.

From conversation, the other officer believed the man was staying at a hotel nearby, and since the guy was being cooperative, decided to provide a taxi service for him—making sure that this subject got to as safe place and was not a problem for us again during the shift. My colleague told me that he could handle it from here, and I checked back into service not giving the mundane incident a second thought.

I was immediately given another call, a traffic collision, and started in that direction. As I spoke to the drivers involved in the collision and began my report, I heard my colleague call for a supervisor and an ambulance over at the hotel that he had taken our prowler. Someone at the hotel was being rushed to the hospital.

Later in the shift, I spoke with my colleague about what had happened. He told me that the subject began becoming more disoriented upon their arrival and the hotel staff could find no record of him being a patron there. The officer also very observantly noted that the subject had an odd fruity smell to his breath.

Concerned for the man’s safety and remembering a training class on diabetic comas, the officer realized that this man’s problems were not related to substance abuse and that the subject needed immediate medical attention. Fortunately, the subject was successfully treated for diabetic coma at a local hospital.

I’ll always remember that call as “yeah, yeah, another boring drunk call” that was in reality a life or death matter. I knew little about diabetic comas, and after my shift decided I needed to do some homework.

In 2008, Two El Reno (OK) police officers were placed in a much more difficult situation when a subject, suffering from a similar condition, was involved in a traffic collision. The man was unresponsive to verbal commands by the officers and the incident progressed into a use of force situation:

Fortunately, everyone was all right after this altercation, but as the commentator notes, officers are faced with many non-textbook cases that require immediate decisions—-some even involving diabetic comas.

The video also reminded me of how close we were to an unfortunate confrontation that night with our disoriented man. In my incident, the prowler was much bigger than both of us officers, and a physical confrontation would have likely been ugly.

As an officer, being prepared mentally and physically to fight off the challenges of subjects who want to inflict harm on you and/or others is essential. In contrast, the need to absorb medical information pertaining to issues such as diabetic comas should not be underestimated. Being able to handle the combative criminal, as well as the unexpected--the person in need of medical attention--is what the public expects from police officers.


mrs. fuzz said...

Hi-thank you for your comment on my blog. I've been reading through your posts and enjoy your writing and the way you think.

thanks for posting David Hasselhoff's comment about Baywatch saving/changing lives. I love all things David Hasselhoff. I bet given the chance he would say it again.

Sandra G. said...

Diabetic shock is a tough one to figure out, particularly on short notice.

Several years ago, my partner and I responded to an Assist Ambulance call. The paramedics were going to a medical call where the person was going into diabetic shock, but the ambulance had been there before, and the man had a history of violent episodes as a result of his illness.

We got there at the same time as the ambulance, and it took five of us to restrain the man so he could be treated. My heart went out to him when the sugar started to take effect - he looked around at all of us and at his trashed apartment, and then burst into tears with his apologies. I felt really bad, because he truely felt horrible about how he had acted.

By the way, the VPD did a media release on my blog today, and because of your frequent visits, your blog got picked up by one of our local media outlets. Good job! Here's the link:



Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the feedback.

Mrs. F.: Now that you mention it, you are prob right about the Hoff...

Sandra: I agree with your comment that it is so difficult to tell when put on the spot. In the video, it was good to hear that the officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing.

And, glad to see being your most annoying poster is paying off. I'll catch a few seconds of fame being associated with your border then (you even are on a billboard in the city? that is cool!).

Sandra G. said...

I definitely do not consider you an annoying poster - you always have informative and constructive comments, so keep em coming!

And it's not really a billboard - it's a recruiting banner on the side of our building. I agreed to the photo when told it was going to be a small pic on the tri-fold recruiting pamphlet, so imagine my surprise when I saw my 20 foot high mug shot. I nearly crashed my car!

Slamdunk said...

"...so imagine my surprise when I saw my 20 foot high mug shot. I nearly crashed my car!"

Too funny--would have made an entertaining traffic accident narrative to read as well.