New county agreement with Sheriff’s Office provides for ‘tactical paramedics’ from Fire Department to be present during high-risk law enforcement events

Document modeled on 2018 agreement with Sarasota Police Department

The Sarasota County Commission has given unanimous approval to an interlocal agreement between the Fire Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office that will ensure that a “tactical paramedic” is present during high-risk law enforcement events.

The five-year period of the agreement was retroactive to Jan. 1. The agreement automatically can be renewed for one year, the relevant agenda materials noted, unless it is terminated beforehand.

Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman signed the document on Jan. 26, it shows.

The board’s signoff on the proposal was part of its unanimous approval of its Feb. 22 Consent Agenda of routine business matters. No commissioner offered any comments on the agreement, which is standard practice with the Consent Agenda votes.

A county staff memo in the Feb. 22 agenda packet explained that the new agreement “is similar to the successful [one]” that was put in place in 2018 with the Sarasota Police Department.

“SWAT Teams utilize specialized tactics and equipment in response to high-risk incidents within the civilian community,” the memo pointed out. “These teams operate in a hostile environment where the possibility of an injury being sustained by one of their members, the perpetrator, or others is significant. In a scenario where a major traumatic injury has occurred,” the memo added, “proper treatment in an expeditious manner has been proven to decrease mortality and morbidity.”

Further, the memo said, “The increasing number of gun related incidents requires specially trained and equipped paramedics referred to as Tactical Medics. Tactical EMS [emergency medical services] utilizes methods and techniques designed to maximize patient survival through actions and treatment designed to limit hemorrhagic blood loss from penetrating trauma in the dynamic and fluid conditions associated with these types of incidents.”

The memo added, “Tactical Paramedics are not certified law enforcement personnel and are not responsible for law enforcement functions or arrest. They are a support element trained to work in a high-risk law enforcement operation to provide EMS support.”

The agreement itself calls for a minimum of four Fire Department members to be chosen to join the SWAT team as tactical paramedics. Each will have to hold an active State of Florida paramedic license, as well as a current paramedic-in-charge specialty, and each will have to have had a minimum of three years of service with the Fire Department.

The interlocal agreement also says that the tactical paramedics “will monitor the medical effects of mission conditions on SWAT Team members and relay any significant concerns to SWAT Team leadership.”

Further, the agreement notes that the tactical paramedics will, in coordination with the Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT command, “prepare a medical response plan for each mission as soon as pertinent mission information is available.” That plan “will include a determination regarding whether a request for additional medical resources, including, but not limited to additional [Fire Department tactical paramedics and/or other Fire Department units], is needed.”

The agreement does point out that the tactical paramedics “will not be deployed to areas considered to be in the direct line of fire.” Nonetheless, it continues, the tactical paramedics may be deployed in “areas of potential danger on foot or within a tactical vehicle, under escort and protection of law enforcement officers specifically tasked with providing Medic protection, unless exigent circumstances make such escort/protection unreasonable.”

Further, the tactical paramedics must familiarize themselves with the weapons the SWAT team uses, the agreement says, and they will be “trained on usage and safety issues,” including live fire and weapons malfunction.

The paramedics themselves will not carry any type of weapons, the agreement adds.

Moreover, the agreement says, the tactical paramedics will not be allowed to “release, discuss, share, or in any way disseminate the identity of SWAT and other [Sheriff’s Office] personnel, nor any information they learn through their preparation to serve as SWAT paramedics, including “tactical, procedural, operational, or otherwise confidential matters.”

Further, the Sheriff’s Office is to pay for and maintain a number of items for use by the tactical paramedics. Among those are the following:

  • “Level 3A body armor.”
  • A ballistic helmet “with integrated communications and hearing protection.”
  • “Gas mask.”
  • EMS supplies specifically for tactical use.
  • A tactical medic bag.
  • A Sheriff’s Office radio and “related communications gear.”

“Upon execution of this agreement,” the county staff memo noted, the Fire Department staff “will continue to collaborate with [the Sheriff’s Office] to support and implement joint emergency operations.” Select personnel will attend a 60-Hour Tactical Paramedic course focused on advanced life support care in law enforcement tactical responses situations, the memo said. The Sheriff’s Office also will pay for that training, it pointed out.

The Sarasota City Police Department will be sending Fire Department personnel assigned to its SWAT team to the same course, the memo noted. The Fire Department personnel “assigned to these teams will be under the oversight and responsibility of the recently created Assistant Chief of Special Programs,” the memo added.