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Ann Emerg Med. 1997 Apr;29(4):497-503.

Law enforcement agencies and out-of-hospital emergency care.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA, USA.



We sought to assess the involvement of law enforcement agencies in out-of-hospital emergency medical care and their attitudes toward expanded roles in emergency medical services (EMS) systems.


We mailed a 20-question survey to 800 police chiefs and sheriffs randomly selected from a list of all law enforcement agencies in the United States. The questions focused on the characteristics of each law enforcement agency, its current level of involvement in providing out-of-hospital emergency medical care, and the characteristics of its associated community and local EMS system. The survey concluded with four statements to assess officer attitudes toward an expanded role in EMS-related activities. We used the chi 2 or Fisher exact test to analyze differences in proportions. The alpha-error rate was set at .05.


Seventeen surveys were returned as undeliverable. Of the remaining 783 surveys, we received 602 responses (77%). Five hundred forty-nine (70.1%) of the respondents were the primary law enforcement agencies in their communities; they make up the final sample. The median number of officers per agency was 12 (range, 1 to 2,623), and the median population served was 6,936 (range, 150 to 1,500,000). Responses indicated that 442 (80.7%) agencies responded to one or more specific types of medical emergencies and 263 (50.3%) provided some level of patient care. Law enforcement officers frequently arrived at the scene of medical emergencies before EMS personnel (81.5%), with a roll-time interval of less than 8 minutes (87.2%). Only 14 agencies (2.6%) used automatic external defibrillators. Fifty-three percent agreed with the statement that EMS-related activities would interfere with their law enforcement duties. However, more than 60% of respondents agreed that law enforcement agencies should be involved in providing emergency medical services for life-threatening emergencies, that their officers would be willing to undertake extra medical training and that EMS-related activities would improve their public images.


Many law enforcement agencies are involved to some extent in providing out-of-hospital emergency medical care, and most of the agencies we surveyed would support additional medical training and new or expanded roles for themselves in EMS systems.

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