Trauma Surgeon Takes On Dallas SWAT Team
Dallas SWAT officers are now more likely to survive an injury thanks to a unique addition to their team -- a full time, tactically trained trauma surgeon.
Some other SWAT teams around the country are served by doctors on a volunteer or part time basis, but Dallas officials know of no other major city that has a doctor dedicated to the team full time.
"I'm the first physician who's every day job is to be on a major metropolitan SWAT team," said Dr. Alex Eastman. He's on call 24 hours a day and deploys alongside SWAT officers in order to provide immediate, comprehensive medical care at the scene of an emergency. He said he has the same training as the rest of the team.
"It's just that my job is not to go out there and be a police officer. My job is to go out there and take care of these guys," he said.
Eastman was no stranger to public safety when he took on this role; before medical school he was a firefighter/paramedic in Kensington, Maryland, he said.
He got involved with the Dallas Police Department through a two-year fellowship with the Department of Surgery and the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he did his residency in surgery.
However, he won't be leaving when the fellowship ends. The police department plans to keep him on to develop a medical support program for the SWAT team. Their goal is to tactically train and utilize a team of paramedics from Dallas Fire Rescue so that members can respond with the SWAT team as needed. Eastman will continue to respond to incidents and direct the paramedics in the field.
He said this type of program is already in place in many smaller cities, but he doesn't know of any other large cities doing it.
"Tactical emergency medical support has been evolving over the last few years. It really is in its infancy, but a very forward thinking lieutenant here in Dallas had this idea for a while, and we were just finally able to put it all together," he said.
"I think cities are beginning to realize that the provision of medical services for these guys, who are valuable investments for their cities, is important."
Dallas SWAT commander Lt. Robert Owens was instrumental in arranging the program.
Owens said medical support is more common among smaller, more suburban SWAT teams because they are less active and it therefore costs them less to have additional personnel train and respond, especially when it involves overtime.
He said the largest city in Texas that does it is Austin, which has a part time SWAT team unlike Dallas, which has 50 SWAT officers on two different shifts.
"The way we solve that is we're going to do it all on-duty," he said. "That's one of the advantages with Alex - he's being paid to be with us."
He said Eastman has been instrumental on several incidents, including one at which a suspect shot himself in the head.
"We dragged him out and Dr. Eastman was right there and stabilized him," Owens said. The suspect later died at the hospital, but, "If that was an officer or a hostage, he had medical attention on him in seconds."
Owens added that Eastman has assisted the team in other ways by serving as their "family doctor" and advising them on nutrition, hydration, minor injuries and other non-emergency issues that affect an officer's performance.
Eastman is also serving as a medical advisor to the department on Taser use, and has provided training on self-aid and buddy-aid for patrol officers, which teaches them what they can do in the event of an injury in the minutes before an ambulance arrives.
"I think it gives everybody a more comfortable feeling," Owens said.
.mil fire teams have medic support, makes sense for tac teams as well. Hope they never need his services!
I think the trauma surgeon is a bit excessive. The military doesn't have its surgeons operating at the squad level. The medics employed in the military are trained roughly up to par with a paramedic. Stabilize the patient for transport to a nearby aid station. This is probably sufficient for SWAT teams since I haven't heard of any LEO organization demanding field surgery capability to operate in a tactical environment.
I have no qualsm with the doc doing it if he wants to. I just wouldn't start a ruckus to get a trauma surgeon on every SWAT team out there in the US.
I don't see any reason why not, but the pay issues is what strikes me.. you're not getting a trauma surgeon for what they pay cops, that's for DAMN sure.