HPD’s tactical medical instruction program earning high marks for its ongoing success

Tom Kennedy

Since HPD started its unique Self Aid Buddy Aid (SABA) program almost three years ago, officers have provided prompt medical care to 20 victims, often getting credit for saving a life.

The tactical medical instruction program has been used on victims, officers, civilians and even suspects. Unquestionably the most notable incident happened earlier this year when three HPD officers administered emergency medical care to an off-duty Houston Community College officer stabbed by a suspect in a Walmart store on April 27.

“Dealing with the threat while trauma is addressed is tactical medicine,” said Rodney Jaime, one of the founders of SABA.

“Special recognition should be given to all officers who put themselves in harm’s way. Also, the SABA Program would not be possible without those who take care of the tactical side on dynamic scenes for those providing medical care.”

Jaime was referring to the officer who arrested the stabbing suspect as the other three officers used the medical tactics that helped to save the life of HCC Officer April Pikes, who was stabbed 14 times before bystanders were able to subdue the suspect.

While Officers Brittany Cerritos, Nathan Moore and Patrick Morrissey worked as a team to administer to Pikes’ wounds, a fourth officer, Matthew Ham, dealt with the suspect, handcuffing him and taking him into custody.

This is a prime example of the teamwork taught in the department’s SABA program, Jaime told the Badge & Gun.

“Every one of those officers should be given a Life Saving Award,” Jaime said.

The HPD Tactical Training Unit initiated the Self Aid Buddy Aid (SABA) in October 2012. Besides Jaime, other founders of the program are Kent Winebrenner, Rich McCusker, Steve Zakharia and Sgt. Bryan Garrison.

Jaime is the lead tactical medical instructor. He also uses Nathan Moore, a military trained medic, in teaching the course at the academy and singled out the following officers for their roles: Chi Yuen, Austin Huckabe, Jeff Chapman, Sgt. James Luplow and David Dedo. “The training would not be possible without the unit working as a whole,” he said.

Jaime also pointed out the generous role of Dr. John Holcomb, M.D., and Memorial Hermann Hospital for donating the HPD-issued SABA kits. “Dr. Holcomb is one of the primary founders and contributors to the development of current tactical medicine practices,” he said.

Jaime also urged all HPD officers involved in a medical intervention to email him the details in order to keep the most thorough and up-to-date records of the department’s record. His email address is Rodney.jaime@houstonpolice.org. “Please include the time, date and place of the event, details of what happened and how each and every officer was involved and the tactics they used,” he said. “This information will enable us to compile the most accurate record of our actions.”

In June HPOU awarded the Patrol Officers of the Month award to Cerritos, Moore and Patrick.

Cerritos applied her HPD-issued tourniquet to the injured officer’s arm to stop the bleeding. Moore tightened the tourniquet to completely stop the bleeding. And Morrissey assisted in the care of Pikes by placing a chest seal on her.

Meanwhile, Officer Ham nabbed the suspect. He was Cerritos’ field training officer at the time. He since has been promoted to sergeant and serves at South Gessner.

Nationwide, Jaime said the number of tactical medical events initiated by aptly trained police officers is rising by the year. Last year’s 73 events was more than double that of the previous year. So far this year there have been 44 events, putting the national total on pace to set another record.

The nationwide tally of officers giving emergency medical treatment shows 168 tourniquets, 28 hemostatics, 31 entailing direct pressure, eight chest seals, 41 drags or carries and one NPA Airway event (nostril-induced airway passage) and 47 transports by police cruiser, 38 fire extrications and 51 improvised tourniquet events.

Overall, these latest national statistics involve 273 civilians and 94 law enforcement officers. There is no updated record of how many of them saw their lives saved by officers trained in medical tactics at trauma scenes. The statistics were compiled by Detective Eric Soderlund of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo, Florida.

Soderlund’s chart is identified as Law Enforcement Officers’ use of Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) in medical interventions.

Officer training like this is helping win important cases for officers in the ever-present court of public opinion. HPOU President Ray Hunt said that it is very likely that the quick actions from these three officers prevented excessive and possibly fatal blood loss for the injured off-duty HCC officer.

A citizen comment posted on the Internet stated, “I am proud of HPD for offering the tourniquet training that saved this officer’s life, and I am especially proud of the experienced officers who used these techniques to save the victim of this attack. Good job to our hard-working police officers! Thank you for serving our community and for keeping us safe every day.”