Why police are swapping first-aid kits for 'trauma bags,' and what's the difference

  • Vernon Hills police Sgt. Andrew Jones inspects the contents of one of the department's new "trauma bags." The bags reflect a new reality for the kind of violence police officers may encounter today. "We realized our (first-aid) kits weren't going to get it done," Jones said.

    Vernon Hills police Sgt. Andrew Jones inspects the contents of one of the department's new "trauma bags." The bags reflect a new reality for the kind of violence police officers may encounter today. "We realized our (first-aid) kits weren't going to get it done," Jones said. Courtesy of Vernon Hills Police Department

  • Vernon Hills police are adding 16 trauma bags, one for each vehicle on the street. Police say items in the bag should give victims of violence and car crashes a better chance at survival.

    Vernon Hills police are adding 16 trauma bags, one for each vehicle on the street. Police say items in the bag should give victims of violence and car crashes a better chance at survival. Courtesy of Vernon Hills Police Department

 
Posted6/14/2019 5:00 AM

Not so long ago, the typical first-aid kit found in a police squad car wasn't much different from what you could pick up for $20 at a sporting goods store -- a handful of bandages of various shapes and sizes, maybe a little gauze, perhaps some antiseptic cream.

But in an era of mass shootings and high-powered weapons on the street, the roles and responsibilities of police officers are changing, and so is their emergency gear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Police in Vernon Hills are swapping their old first-aid kits for "trauma bags." The orange cases include the kind of items one might expect to find in an Army medic's pouch, like something called an Israeli bandage, tourniquets, sucking chest wound bandages and collapsible stretchers capable of carrying 400 pounds.

Items that can be found in a Vernon Hills Police Department trauma bag include a tourniquet, sucking chest wound bandages and a collapsible stretcher.
Items that can be found in a Vernon Hills Police Department trauma bag include a tourniquet, sucking chest wound bandages and a collapsible stretcher. - Courtesy of Vernon Hills Police Department

Sgt. Andrew Jones, who's been training fellow officers on the new items, said the packs will be useful in many situations, including car crashes when an officer arrives before paramedics.

"It will allow us to do whatever we can to sustain a life for as long as we can," Jones said.

But in a town that is home to a major shopping mall, six grade schools, a high school and several other public gathering spots, police are aware of the threat of an active shooter situation. After taking a class in tactical street survival a couple of years ago, Jones said it became obvious "our kits weren't going to get it done."

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So working with medical supply company Medline, the department acquired 16 trauma packs -- one for each police vehicle on the street -- for about $3,500. After training this week, they'll each be deployed by next week, Jones said.

The items inside, he said, should mean a higher survival rate for victims of violence and allow police officers to provide better medical assistance in situations when a scene is still active and too dangerous for paramedics to reach those in need.

"Our number one goal is the protection of life over everything else," Jones said.

Hoffman Estates officer Gary Jones got to play cowboy this week when he responded to a report of animals running free and came across a pair of cows that had escaped a farm near the village's border with Elgin. The cows were safely returned to their home.
Hoffman Estates officer Gary Jones got to play cowboy this week when he responded to a report of animals running free and came across a pair of cows that had escaped a farm near the village's border with Elgin. The cows were safely returned to their home. - Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Police Department
Udder surprise

When an officer responds to a call about a stray animal, they're usually expecting a dog on the loose. Hoffman Estates police this week instead found two cows.

Officers called to a neighborhood near Shoe Factory Road and Berner Drive on the far west side of the village Monday afternoon found the pair wandering in the front yards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Hoffman Estates officer Gary Jones got to play cowboy this week when he responded to a report of animals running free and came across a pair of cows that had escaped a farm near the village's border with Elgin. The cows were safely returned to their home.
Hoffman Estates officer Gary Jones got to play cowboy this week when he responded to a report of animals running free and came across a pair of cows that had escaped a farm near the village's border with Elgin. The cows were safely returned to their home. - Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Police Department

The cows had escaped from a nearby farm on the village's border with Elgin, Sgt. Mark Mueller told us. A post about the escapade on the department's Facebook page joked that officers were able to "live the life of a cowboy."

Mueller said the officers used dog leashes they keep in their patrol vehicles to detain the loose bovines until their owners showed up and walked them the approximately two blocks home.

Hoffman Estates police Sgt. Mark Mueller donned a giant Pikachu head while interacting with a fan at last weekend's Spring Awakening electronic music festival held outside the Sears Centre Arena.
Hoffman Estates police Sgt. Mark Mueller donned a giant Pikachu head while interacting with a fan at last weekend's Spring Awakening electronic music festival held outside the Sears Centre Arena. - Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Police Department
Cops and music fans mix

Wandering cows weren't the only rambunctious bunch Hoffman Estates police had to contend with during the past week.

Members of the force had a big part in keeping things safe and fun when tens of thousands of music fans descended on the village last weekend for the Spring Awakening festival outside the Sears Centre Arena.

While you might think young electronic music fans in garish outfits and police officers in uniform might go together like peanut butter and pickles, photos and anecdotes from the event tell a different story.

Hoffman Estates police Sgt. Mark Mueller donned a giant Pikachu head while interacting with a fan at last weekend's Spring Awakening electronic music festival held outside the Sears Centre Arena.
Hoffman Estates police Sgt. Mark Mueller donned a giant Pikachu head while interacting with a fan at last weekend's Spring Awakening electronic music festival held outside the Sears Centre Arena. - Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Police Department

And that was no coincidence for the police, who made every effort to keep things friendly.

"The fear of a lot of the fest-goers may have been that the suburban police are going to be a lot more strict than the big-city police," Mueller said. "But our main concern was to keep everybody safe, and get everybody in and everybody out."

Which isn't to say the local police were all business. Several posed with fans for photos that later appeared on the department's Facebook page. Mueller got in on the action by donning a giant head of the Pokemon character Pikachu in one snapshot, and Deputy Chief Greg Polous appeared in several, including alongside the famous DJ known as Marshmello.

Hoffman Estates Deputy Police Chief Greg Poulos got a snapshot with the famous DJ known only as Marshamello during last weekend's Spring Awakening music festival at the Sears Centre Arena.
Hoffman Estates Deputy Police Chief Greg Poulos got a snapshot with the famous DJ known only as Marshamello during last weekend's Spring Awakening music festival at the Sears Centre Arena. - Courtesy of Hoffman Estates Police Department

As for law enforcement work, Hoffman Estates officials say the event went even better than hoped, with no major police activity required over the three days.

Former Harper College Professor Charles Johnston
Former Harper College Professor Charles Johnston
What's next for ex-professor?

This week, Daily Herald reporter Christopher Placek caught up with defense lawyer Sean Fitzgerald, who represented former Harper College professor Charles Johnston in connection with his bizarre shooting spree last year along Interstate 80 in Iowa.

Johnston, 61, is serving a sentence of up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple charges stemming from the spree, which included the professor exchanging gunfire with an Iowa state trooper.

Former Harper College Professor Charles Johnston
Former Harper College Professor Charles Johnston

But Fitzgerald told Placek that Johnston is immediately eligible for parole and could go free whenever Iowa authorities decide it's time. That's because prosecutors, as part of Johnston's plea deal, dropped an attempted murder charge. Under Iowa state law, an attempted murder conviction would have meant a minimum 18-year prison stay for Johnston.

"The end result I think is the prosecution knew they had problems with the case when it came to attempted murder -- there were issues I pointed out," Fitzgerald said. "(The deal) gives him the opportunity to prove himself and rehab and hopefully enter back to the community at large."

What problems with attempted murder? Fitzgerald says there's no evidence Johnston set out to kill anyone.

Authorities say Johnston, a since-fired Harper psychology professor, shot at trucks and then exchanged gunfire with a responding state trooper at a rest stop and gas station on Jan. 11, 2018, near Atalissa, Iowa.

"I don't know what his full intent is or was that day," Fitzgerald said. "It's just fortunate with the amount of rounds discharged there was not a single person injured. It's a miracle and the judge reiterated, too, during the sentencing hearing people should be thankful no one was hurt."

• Got a tip or thoughts on a cops and crime-related issue to share? Email copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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