New Tools Will Give Deputies Some Added Zap
St. Petersberg Times
Efforts are under way to provide them defibrillators to treat cardiac arrest victims and Tasers to stun violent suspects.
Pasco County sheriff’'s deputies will be packing extra voltage to provide life-saving heart jolts for some, debilitating stuns for others.
This week the Sheriff’'s Office received 60 long-awaited Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs. The arrival of the mobile tools, which shock a heart back into a normal beat, is part of the effort of the Pasco-Hernando chapter of the American Heart Association to put the machines in every Pasco and Hernando County sheriff’'s patrol car.
In a different program, the Sheriff’'s Office will use a federal law enforcement grant to buy 257 Tasers, dart-shooting guns that deliver knee-buckling 50,000-volt shocks. The guns are used as a last resort on violent suspects after verbal commands and pepper spray have failed.
For cardiac arrest victims, the Heart Association plans to buy 372 defibrillators at a cost of $750,000.
Pasco sheriff’'s Cpl. Dan Dede distributed Pasco’'s 60 AED units Wednesday and Thursday to patrol cars, courthouses, sheriff’'s buildings and detention centers. Pasco hopes to have the rest, for a total of 252, within the next two years.
The Hernando County Sheriff’'s Office has received five AEDs, according to spokesman Lt. Joe Paez. Its total share will be 120.
For seven months, Dede took to the road, hitting civic group meetings in Pasco to demonstrate the need for the defibrillators and ask for contributions.
With him was Kurt Conover, director of business development at the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and chairman of the Heart Association’'s AED initiative, leading up to the Heart Ball in May.
The duo’'s efforts, plus the major fundraising drive of the Heart Ball, raised $117,300 for Pasco, Conover said. About $49,000 was raised for Hernando.
Although all ambulances carry defibrillators, deputies often reach heart attack victims first, Dr. Rao Musunuru said this year in announcing the effort to buy the machines for deputies’’ cars. Musunuru is a cardiologist at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and president of the Florida chapter of the American Heart Association.
Deputies have been trained to use the AEDs for four years, Dede said.
“It is not in place of CPR, it is an enhancement tool,” Dede said. “If the machine doesn’'t find a shockable rhythm it’'s looking for, it just sits there. . . . If it flatlines and there’'s no electrical activity, the machine will do nothing. All you’'ll have to do is regular CPR.”
In the opposite case, CPR will not help if the heart is suffering a fibrillation problem, or an irregular rhythm, he said. Meanwhile, oxygen is not getting to the brain. That’'s where the AED comes in.
Most adults suffering from cardiac arrest experience a fibrillation problem, he said.
“We have four to six minutes we work with,” Dede said, stressing the importance of speed before an oxygen-deprived cardiac patient suffers brain damage.
“Anything more than that, you’'re in trouble.”
Criminals could also be in for a shock at the hands of sheriff’'s deputies.
Up to now, the Sheriff’'s Office had only five Tasers: two at the county jail in Land O’'Lakes and three for the Street Tactical Operations and Patrol unit that targets trouble spots throughout the county.
This new order will put Tasers in the hands of every uniformed patrol deputy on the force, sheriff’'s spokesman Jon Powers said. Three warrants detectives, two courthouse bailiff supervisors and two other detectives will also get them, he said.
The Tasers, holsters and air cartridges will cost about $140,000. “It’'s another very effective law enforcement tool,” Powers said. “Short of deadly force, it gives the deputies another option.”
So far, only one Pasco deputy has resorted to that option.
Deputy Bennie Barrington Jr. fired a Taser on July 11 at Daniel James Kershaw, a 34-year-old Port Richey man who had smashed the window of a patrol car, kicked a police officer and hit a paramedic in the head, according to reports.
A douse of pepper spray didn’'t subdue him, the report said. Neither did a five-second jolt from the Taser. Kershaw tried to get up, so Barrington gave him another five-second burst, the report said.
“I’'ll stop fighting,” Kershaw told the deputy, according to the report. “Just don’'t shock me again.”