The Lack of Proper Training by Kansas Public Safety Officers May Hurt You!
Are you Being Protected by the Kansas Public Safety Departments?
My answer is NO after what had happened to me this week and after talking to over 13 high ranking Kansas public safety officers in Kansas. Matter a fact, a short and free training session held for public safety officers in the State of Kansas may save your life or someone you love dearly. The problem is no public safety officer I have talked to have attended this short and free training.
On February 12th , 2008 my opinion of public safety officials changed and what I learned later will astonish you. I was stopped on a routine traffic stop along highway 35, just south of Olathe, Kansas. The problem was the highway trooper thought it was routine, while I knew it was less then routine. I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, but I knew that I was having a severe diabetic problem, so severe in fact, that later I found out that my doctor’s office recommended to my wife to get me to the hospital ASAP. I informed the officer that I was having diabetic problems more then 7 times; however, he followed his training asked a couple questions wrote up a ticket and let me go on my way.
Even though I was about a mile from home, I’m not exactly sure how I got home. I was jittery, my headed pounded, my eyes felt like they had needles in them and I was loosing bodily functions. I was a little scared because I haven’t gone through a diabetic high or low quite this severe since I was diagnosed with diabetes. At the time you could have told me that I was at Disney World and I would have believed you.
When I got home I took a glucose test with my meter and my blood sugar level was nearly 700, which is way higher then the acceptable level of 150. The meter in my car wouldn’t register a reading because it only goes up to 500, I have been told. I took insulin and then called my doctor’s office. After I took digital photos of my test I called my doctor’s office. My doctor’s office wanted me to come in, safely. Since my wife was at work and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, I decided to drive the 4 blocks to my doctor’s office, again another mistake on my part. On the way to my doctor’s office, my doctor called my wife and said that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. By the time I learned of this news that I needed to head to the hospital, I was already walking into my doctor’s office.
After getting my glucose levels down at the doctor’s office, I wanted to find out why the events went the way they did. I have little recollection of how I got home. Sure, I was happy the way things turned out and that I was safe, but there were many problems that could have developed. How can I prevent this from happening again?
My doctor, Dr. Morrison, form Olathe Medical Center, said, “My high could have been the result of my high carbohydrate meal I had for lunch.” We also talked about a few isolated stress factors. Dr. Morrison said, “The best thing the Highway Trooper could have done was let me take my insulin as soon as possible.” He suggested that we keep a real close eye on my glucose levels and keep insulin with me at all times, even if I’m only 1 mile away from home. Dr. Morrison said,” The chances this happens again is not real likely. Spikes in glucose happen right before you get sick, after a high carb meal or during times of high stress.”
I discussed some diabetic issues with Kathy Coker, a Diabetic Instructor at Olathe Medical Center. Kathy said that, “when diabetics are in their highs and lows their metabolic functions start changing. It is not uncommon for diabetics to be treated as being under the influence of alcohol by police officers.” In fact Kathy added that a diabetic not treated correctly can end up in a comatose state and loose their life. She has heard of cases where diabetics being detained for mistaken drunkenness and later dying in police custody.
Why did the Highway Trooper treat me as a speeder and not as a diabetic in need of help? I told the trooper several times while he had me on the side of the highway that I was having diabetic problems. He asked me if I needed him to call Med Act. When I said NO, I need insulin and a restroom; he at that point figured I was a speeder looking to get out of a ticket. The Highway Trooper said,” Sir if you need to go that bad, why didn’t you stop at the last 2 exits.” The highway Trooper never took me seriously, I believe. If he had he wouldn’t have left me behind the wheel of my car after he finished his business.
I next turned my question to Captain Dek Kruger and Lieutenant Behm of the Kansas Highway Patrol Troop A in Olathe, Kansas. I met Captain Kruger and Lieutenant Behm in person in an interrogation room in Olathe soon after I was stabilized. According to Captain Kruger once a person denies Med Act, as I did, Highway Troopers treat the person as a liar. Captain Kruger said, “Many people try to use every excuse to get out of tickets. We also have to be careful that we prevent the person from hurting themselves or us.” Many times, according to Captain Kruger, Diabetics are treated like drunk drivers. We don’t know when someone is telling us the truth or lying to us.” I asked if the Kansas Highway Patrol has training on how to handle diabetics. Captain Kruger gave me a contact in Topeka to talk to.
After calling the Kansas Highway Patrol Headquarters 6 times, I finally talked to two representatives of the Kansas Highway Patrol. One was from Professional Standards and the other was from Training. According to both representatives, the Kansas Highway Patrol does not have training for Troopers on handling diabetic situations although one took special training when he first became a trooper many years ago.
All over the internet you can read stories about diabetics being mistaken for a drunken person and being shot by public safety officers. In the matter of 45 minutes on the internet I found hundreds of stories of police handling a diabetic the wrong way. The American Diabetes Association has created a DVD for public safety officers on handling situations with a Diabetic during extreme high or low glucose levels. Mark Stubbs, the new Kansas City Executive Director for the American Diabetes Association, would be happy to educate and provide material for any public safety office in Kansas or Missouri on how to handle a diabetic. Mark said”, The State of Kansas will not allow an enforcement officer who has type 1 diabetes to carry a gun.”
I asked many Kansas and Missouri police departments on if they have training on how to handle a diabetic. Out of 13 departments, no department offers training on how to deal with diabetics. None of the 13 officers interviewed had diabetes. Even though hundreds of diabetics get mistreated and there are over 20 million diabetics, no public safety department in the Kansas City area that I interviewed felt the need to offer training to their officers.
The Shawnee Police Department, according to Sergeant McCorkill, offers medical help to a diabetic. “If medical help is refused,” according to Sergeant McCorkill,”They will write up every citation possible.”
The Overland Park Police Department, according to Officer Jim Weaver, offers no diabetic training for officers and to his knowledge there is no policy on how to handle a diabetic in a high or low. Officer Weaver offered to contact the legal department for any policy on handling medical situations.
The Olathe Police Department was the only public safety department interviewed in the Kansas City area that will error on the side of caution and call Med Act, even if a person refuses and let Med Act make a decision of how to handle the medical situation. In my situation, according to Sergeant Ty Moeder, they would have called Med Act and probably taken me to the hospital. Sergeant Moeder said that the Olathe Police Department does not have a written policy or a training program on how to handle a diabetic. The Olathe Police Department, according to Sergeant Moeder, is a Life Saving Organization that uses common sense. If a diabetic is in a high or low the diabetic can’t probably make the correct decisions.
During my research I read many articles of diabetics being mistaken for a drunken person. During my interviews I asked public safety officials how they would deal with the exact situation I had been involved in on February 12th. Most public safety officers said that given the same situation they would probably not have been able to tell if I was telling a lie or if I was really a diabetic in need of help. I’m not sure what most people think but I know that public safety officers are paid to be observant and none of them noticed that I had a diabetic bracelet. According to them, I guess, there are a lot of drunks trying to get out of tickets by carrying around a glucose meter, wearing diabetic bracelets, urinating in their pants and asking for help.
You maybe surprised that most public safety departments do not have a policy or offer training on how to handle diabetic emergencies. It is no wonder why some public safety officers overreact to diabetic emergencies while the Highway Patrolman who stopped me ignored my request. I could have very easily slammed my car into a bus full of school kids after the Highway Patrolman released me. If you ask any diabetic who has had blood sugar levels in the 600’s and 700’s and they would let you know that is a very scary situation.
What do I like to see come out of this experience. With the number of people getting diagnosed with diabetes rising fast and over 7 million people having undiagnosed diabetes, I wondered how this event can become a positive. I discussed what had happened to me with friends and clients who have diabetes and have compiled a short list of what I would like to see happen from this situation.
1) A little education can go a long way with the public. Not all people with needles in public restrooms are druggies. Some may actual have a disease that they didn’t choose like diabetes. Make it easier for diabetics to test for glucose levels in restrooms and dispose of used needles when using insulin.
2) Educate public safety officers. The American Diabetes Association has free material to educate public safety officers. All public safety officials should be required to receive the information on how to handle diabetic emergencies.
3) Awareness education. Individuals who wear diabetes bracelets and have glucose meters probably are not drunks or liars trying to get out of a ticket. Quit treating them as alcoholics or liars. Treating a diabetic as a drunken person or ignoring their request for help can and may kill them, you or someone you love.
I am a local business owner who suffers from diabetes and I do not work for the American Diabetes Association. For more information please visit the American Diabetes Association website or contact Chris Dowell at cd@DowellTaggart.com.