Cops With EpiPens? What Could Go Wrong?
Aug. 9, 2016 (Fault Lines) – Illinois, that bastion of progressivism, is at it again. The Chicago Tribune reports that Governor Bruce Rauner, who is currently on vacation in Montana, picked up his pen Friday, August 5, to sign off on a bunch of legislation.
The good news is that Illinois’ new laws make sense. For example, only a dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon would object to the “Annie LeGere Law,” a bill authorizing cops to carry EpiPens and be trained in their use. SB2878, as it’s less trendily known, is a great example of taxpayer money being used to expand the cops’ ambit for a noble cause.
Even better, the law couldn’t possibly backfire. Sure, cops aren’t technically under any obligation to jump in and help. But this is Illinois, a place where they take their commitment to serve and protect very seriously.
And since the training costs are front-loaded, it’s reassuring to know the money won’t be wasted: Chicago cops, for example, have a great track record of improving their respect for black residents’ civil rights after being retrained, and as Fault Lines contributor (and former cop) Greg Prickett would tell you,* cops in general are well-suited to the role of medical first responder.
This is why they do so well when called on to help people who are psychotic, schizophrenic, autistic or have Down syndrome. Neither Alzheimer’s nor suicidal ideations nor drug episodes nor
gloom of night depression stay these cops from the swift tasing and, occasionally, murder of those who fall into their hands. Illinois is definitely not the kind of place where taxpayers have to shell out $1.5 million because their cops confiscated an asthmatic man’s inhaler, sprayed it into the air in front of him and watched him die, simply because he made them chase him down the street.
Since the police have a magic crime sense – just ask Jay-Z, or consult some stop-and-frisk statistics – is it that big of a stretch to ask them to have a magic sense for when someone’s in anaphylactic shock?** Certainly, no cop would misdiagnose someone or overlook their condition. Nor would they misinterpret someone’s deafness or blindness as a failure to respect their authoritah and brutalize them for it. It makes perfect sense to entrust this responsibility to people who, after 11 years of training, experience and what is almost certainly a daily habit, sometimes manage to identify donuts as donuts instead of crystal meth.
And because police officers are paragons of the community, no cop would dream of using an EpiPen for anything but its intended purpose. The demonstrated creativity of some cops in finding ways to inflict pain with police dogs, the hoods of cruisers and the pavement – sometimes all at once – in no way suggests they’d do the same with EpiPens. Given that police officers have been known to eschew department-issued plastic flashlights in favor of big, heavy Maglites, including the new ones that are marketed as “combat-ready,” why would they have to? Their motives are pure, and these days, they only rarely use them to beat homeless men to death.
Given how highly they regard people’s bodily integrity, it’s inconceivable that a cop would inject someone in the wrong place or put the EpiPen somewhere it wasn’t meant to go. And as incidents like the 2012 Empire State Building shooting show, cops are proficient enough in the use of tools that we can trust them to inject well, even under stress. The risk of cops lacerating their “patients” or leaving the needle in is probably acceptably low – and since it’s often advisable to immobilize the patient’s leg, this may be one of those cases where best practices align with a cop’s natural inclinations.
It’d be crass to speculate on the possibility of cops finding unorthodox uses for the drug, so let’s not do it. After all, an epinephrine overdose is a serious thing, with a variety of unpleasant and potentially fatal side effects. It would take a real callous bastard to administer epinephrine as a punitive measure. In addition to the risk of pulmonary edema or a fatal heart attack, especially in people with preexisting heart conditions – which, as we know, cops can be trusted to diagnose – an epinephrine overdose can cause a delusional state of mind, which presumably wouldn’t be used to justify or give rise to further reprisals from the cop. That wouldn’t be reasonable, and we know how reasonable the police are.
All in all, it’s hard to find a serious argument against this bill. Along with the other ones Governor Rauner signed, like SB3167, which rather daringly amends the Illinois Egg and Egg Production Act to allow grocers to “consolidate” eggs from cartons in which at least one egg broke instead of throwing them all away,*** it’s a fine example of good intentions leading to sound governance. Like any law named after a dead child, SB2878 is unlikely to have any undesired consequences. And at $300 for an EpiPen, up from $50 in 2004, it’s a bargain for the taxpayer.
The people and the lege of Illinois can sleep soundly tonight, knowing that they “did something.” Tomorrow, they’d better get to work on paying cops to carry, say, Valium injectors. Or are epileptics less worthy of the government’s concern?
*He’d actually tell you the opposite.
**You’ve got to wonder why they need all these idiot-friendly Supreme Court decisions when they’ve got a magic crime sense.
***Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.