The New Bern Police Department could soon have a new tool in its arsenal to serve community members in immediate need of medical attention.
The NBPD has submitted an application for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to request funds for the purchase of nine automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to be placed in patrol vehicles. The devices are used to apply an electric charge or current to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. Defibrillation is often an important step in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and can help save the life of someone in cardiac arrest.
The NBPD’s JAG grant application is for $14,179 and requires no matching funds. The total cost of the nine units is $14,355, and the department will pay the difference of $176.
According to information from New Bern Police Chief Patrick Gallagher, in 2022 NBPD officers responded to 508 medical calls for service and in the first half of 2023 officers responded to 225 medical calls. The medical issues included breathing problems, cardiac respiratory arrest, chest pain, heart problems, and overdoses.
“The New Bern PD believes that these tools will further our ability to provide timely services to our community members in hopes of saving lives. Additionally, this project would provide equipment to improve the response of officers to medical calls for service…” Gallagher wrote in the grant application. “Having and utilizing this equipment would assist in improving the community trust in our police agency.”
During their October 24 meeting, the New Bern Board of Aldermen approved a resolution in support of the JAG application.
Gallagher told the board the external defibrillators would help the NBPD become part of New Bern’s medical response team.
“We’re certainly not capable of resuscitating somebody who’s having a heart attack absent CPR,” he said.
Gallagher said the units would be placed in patrol vehicles with staff who are already trained and certified on the use of AEDs.
“Rarely will you see a fire truck or an ambulance patrolling your neighborhood, but you will see a police officer,” Gallagher said. “And the ability to bring on station an AED with persons that are suffering from a medical emergency, where this would be advantageous and save a life, is certainly something we were willing to leverage.”
Gallagher said NBPD dispatchers would be aware of which patrol cars had the AEDs available.
“If somebody’s having a heart attack across the street and there’s a patrol car there, we need to make sure you have the communication that you have a piece of equipment and there’s somebody there who has the need,” Mayor Jeffrey Odham commented.
By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.