Detroit Free Press
Docs and drug busts. Medics and mayhem. Syringes and sheriff's deputies.
There's a new meaning for backup when it comes to police raids and drug busts.
Members of the Wayne County Sheriff's Special Response Team are bringing along doctors to accompany them in situations where there are barricaded gunmen, hostages and bomb scares.
The doctors are part of the St. John Hospital and Medical Center Tactical Emergency Medical Support team, which was formed about 14 months ago as the brainchild of Dr. Robert Smith.
As part of his residency, Smith, 34, had to come up with a research project. Smith, who previously worked as a reserve police officer in Albion and a paramedic and firefighter for the Farmington Hills Fire Department, had heard about similar efforts across the country.
He pitched the idea a couple of years ago to a sheriff's deputy during a paramedics training exercise in Wayne County, and it caught Sheriff Warren Evans' attention.
"It made perfect sense to me," Evans said. "If someone goes down or there's a problem out there, I want the officers to have the best treatment as quickly as they possibly can."
The staff has responded to about 20 emergency situations thus far.
Officers wear military-style dog tags that provide on-scene doctors easy access to their medical records via laptop computer.
"To me, it's cutting-edge stuff," Evans said, adding that the program is unique to metro Detroit.
The program has about 15 doctors, nurses and paramedics from St. John Hospital and Medical Center. They train with the Special Response Team twice a month, learning terminology, tools and tactics.
"It adds another element to the specialty of emergency medicine," said Dr. Deniese Worthy, who is involved in the program.
The program is divided into a tiered system in which Tier 1 doctors and paramedics can accompany officers into a raid, if they want. They must qualify in firearms training.
Currently, Smith and two paramedics are the only Tier 1 responders.
In his training, Smith has fired guns ranging from sniper rifles to handguns.
"We do everything the sheriff's deputies do," he said.
The responders practice pulling injured officers out of buildings and administering medical care.
"It's exciting and satisfying knowing you're there in case something should happen," he said.
Doctors in Tier II are stationed at a nearby on-site command center and respond to medical emergencies from there.
Tier III doctors respond from the hospital. They include ophthalmologists, for example, who would treat someone with an eye injury.
And what if a criminal suspect is injured?
"We would treat other injuries," said Dr. Patricia Nouhan, a Tier II provider. "But medical support for the sheriff's department is our top priority."