Questions raised over police department training

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Questions about the Austin Police Department’s medical certifications and potential liability to the city surfaced at Monday night’s City Council work session.

In response to a question from council member Marian Clennon regarding the certifications, police Capt. Dave McKichan issued a memo to the City Council explaining the department’s training standards. In the memo, McKichan states police officers are required by state statute to be trained in first aid, although the level of first aid training is not specified. All officers are required to complete a certified first responders course in order to become licensed as a peace officer in Minnesota, the memo states. They are not required to renew that certification, though.

“All officers need to get the certification before licensure; however, it doesn’t need to be kept,” McKichan said at the meeting. “All our officers are trained in first responding. What we do on medicals wouldn’t change (if they were certified). Our skillset wouldn’t change.”

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Fire Chief Mickey Healey said his firefighters completed EMT training in September. He said he had the firefighters take part in the training so they could further their education in technical rescue, protect themselves on the scene and provide quality medical care.

Healey also said the training was needed to keep the city’s liability and negligence to a minimum.

At the meeting, Healey suggested dispatching the EMT certified fire personnel along with police officers for medical calls to improve response times, make officers more available and provide certified medical service to citizens. Improving response times by dispatching the fire department sooner could make the difference in an emergency situation, Healey said, especially because the police department has a high call volume already.

“If the police department has a tremendous call load that night and they don’t have officers readily available, they shouldn’t hesitate to call us,” Healey said Tuesday morning. “They can supplement with the fire department.”

There was no resolution to the discussion, but council members tabled the topic to be brought up at a future work session at the prompting of council member Steve King.