By Dale K. DuPont
MIAMI (Reuters) - With Florida leading the country in police fatalities this year, officers in the state's most populous county soon will receive training on how to survive the crucial minutes between getting injured and receiving aid.
The new course, titled "Surviving the Golden Hour," will teach Miami-Dade County law enforcement officers how to dress a wound and stabilize a spinal injury.
Paramedics don't go in to help wounded officers until the violence stops, said Dr. Pete Gutierrez, a dean at Miami Dade College's Medical Center campus and former undercover narcotics cop.
That could be too late. If no tourniquet is applied to someone shot in a main artery, death occurs within 10 minutes, he said. "Those are the situations we want to impact here," he said.
Law enforcement officer fatalities have risen nationwide. As of Thursday, 97 officers had died this year compared to 87 for the same period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization that tracks the deaths.
Florida tops the list with 11 deaths, followed by 10 in Texas and eight in New York. The number of officers killed by gunfire rose to 41 from 30, while the number killed in traffic accidents fell to 33 from 43.
The total for 2010 was 152, up from 122 in 2009.
Those numbers prompted the college and the Miami-Dade Police Department to create the 40-hour curriculum, which includes elements of the U.S. Army's course for medics and general paramedic training, Gutierrez said.
A few other departments across the country offer similar advanced training, but this partnership with a college is thought to be a first, a police official said.
"I think it's extremely necessary. As the economy continues to decline, people get desperate," said police department training officer Bianchi Gonzalez. "We at least give our officers a fighting chance."
Miami-Dade police currently receive basic CPR and first aid instruction.
The new course will offer them trauma knowledge and equipment, such as a combat-style tourniquet that can be applied with one hand and quick-clotting combat gauze. Officers will work with the school's mannequins, which are able to simulate all sorts of injuries.
"It's like a mini-EMT course," Gutierrez said, enough "to keep their buddies alive."
Twenty-two officers are enrolled for the initial class, which starts July 25. The goal is eventually to train all of the Miami-Dade Police Department's nearly 3,000 officers, and the course also is open to other local law enforcement agencies.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)