CITY HALL — Aldermen moved Wednesday to equip Chicago Police with combat medical kits to treat themselves and citizens in emergencies.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee considering the matter, proposed his resolution after two officers who are U.S. military combat veterans saved a man's life this summer with blood-clotting gauze used to treat war wounds.
"If we are injured, the only person we can count on is ourselves," said officer Brian Berkowitz, an instructor in the Police Department's law enforcement medical and rescue training class.
Berkowitz testified that a wounded officer can bleed out and die in two to four minutes, while it typically takes an ambulance six to 12 minutes to arrive at a scene. What's more, he added, if it's a crime in progress, with prolonged shooting, an ambulance may not be able to get to the wounded.
"This is not the fault of the Fire Department," Berkowitz said. "It is only reality."
Berkowitz backed Burke in suggesting the kits, priced $100 to $115, could make the difference in saving many lives. The kits, he added, include the blood-clotting gauze as well as a combat tourniquet that has proved highly effective in treating arm and leg wounds.
Burke called the kits "life-saving equipment that ought to be available for every officer out there."
Lt. Ken Bigg, who trains officers at the Police Academy, testified that it could save the lives of both officers and citizens, saying, "It could have a big impact on our relationship with the community."
Burke's amended ordinance, however, would limit distribution to officers who've taken and passed the course Berkowitz teaches.
According to Berkowitz, the Police Department has 3,273 officers who've taken the medical course, which is now mandatory for new recruits but voluntary for Police Department veterans.
Berkowitz testified that, up to now, officers had to buy the kits themselves, sometimes with an equipment allowance.
"Certainly there is sufficient funding in the Police Department budget to equip every officer trained in these kits," Burke said.
Burke suggested the money could come from a previously little-know Police Department civil forfeiture fund consisting of money legally seized from suspects, a fund detailed this week in a Chicago Reader article. According to the Reader, the Police Department has spent $25 million from the fund since 2010.
"It's an off-the-books stream of income," Burke said, calling it "a ready source of funds."
The resolution passed the committee and heads to the full Council for a final vote Wednesday.
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