Groups seek donations to equip police officers with life-saving tools

This kit contains the tools police officers might need to save their own lives when they've been shot. Indiana District 1 Hospital Emergency Planning Committee and a Dyer police detective's son are raising money to purchase the kits for officers. Training is being offered free of charge to all Northwest Indiana police departments.

In less than a minute, a police officer suffering from a serious gunshot wound can begin to feel disoriented because of blood loss.

There is no time to call for an ambulance, and medics are trained to stay away from a scene until police signal it's safe.

In this kind of life-threatening situation, the officer or a partner must render first aid. 

"All bleeding stops eventually," said Lori Postma, emergency preparedness educator for Franciscan Health in Hammond, Munster and Dyer. "Either you stop it, or it runs out. So it becomes vital that you shut the faucet off."

The problem is that many police officers have not been trained to "shut the faucet off," nor do they carry the tools needed to potentially save their own lives, officials said.

That's why the Indiana District 1 Hospital Emergency Planning Committee is offering an eight-hour tactical medical training course to local law enforcement officers as part of the Save a Cop program.

A group of 12 instructors has trained more than 200 officers with 42 police agencies, said Gary McKay, manager of emergency preparedness for Community Healthcare System and chairman of the planning committee. Upon completion of the course, each officer receives a kit containing a one-handed tourniquet, hemostatic gauze and other first-aid tools.

McKay and Postma have volunteered countless hours on the program, Munster Police Chief Steve Scheckel said.

The training is being offered for free to police departments. However, many agencies — both large and small — simply don't have money in their budgets to buy the $110 kits, officials said.

"It's such a worthy endeavor," said Scheckel, who works with McKay and Postma through the Indiana District 1 Homeland Security Task Force. "They're donating all their time. All we need help with is to buy that kit, and then this is completely free to police departments."

To ensure all officers have access to the life-saving training, the Indiana District 1 Hospital Emergency Planning Committee is seeking donations to buy kits for officers. Some departments, including the Dyer Police Department, are raising money for the kits separately.

Postma said $110 is a small price to pay to save a life. The 12 Region instructors were trained by federal authorities. The kits being distributed locally are named after Howard County sheriff's Deputy Carl Koontz, who died in March 2016 after being shot while helping to serve arrest and search warrants in a drug case.

Koontz's colleagues did everything they could, but they didn't have access to the hemostatic gauze that could have saved his life, Postma said. All officers should have the tools they need in case of a life-threatening emergency, she said.

In Dyer, Detective Sgt. David Stein's 12-year-old son is raising money to buy kits for Dyer police officers. Logan Stein will have his bar mitzvah in January, and he's required to complete a community service project as part of that process, David Stein said.

Logan Stein's goal is to raise $5,000 to buy a kit for all 31 Dyer officers and set aside funds in case any kits need to be replaced or purchased for new officers, David Stein said.

Logan admires the Dyer police officers who work at Kahler Middle School and wanted to do something for the Police Department, his father said.

"I'm not even my kid's favorite Dyer cop," David Stein said. 

Nationally, 85 police officers had died in the line of duty as of Aug. 29 including 30 from gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Many more have been wounded by gunfire but survived, Scheckel said.

McKay previously served as a police officer in Kokomo, Indiana, and said this training is imperative.

"I was an officer for 25 years, and I went through lots of training," he said. "This is the most important training I've seen. We're trained to save others, but we're not usually trained to save ourselves."

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Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.