Medical support for law enforcement-extended operations incidents


  • Matthew J. Levy, DO, MSc
  • Nelson Tang, MD



law enforcement-extended operations medical support, tactical emergency medical support, law enforcement extended operations


Objective: As the complexity and frequency of law enforcement-extended operations incidents continue to increase, so do the opportunities for adverse health and well-being impacts on the responding officers. These types of clinical encounters have not been well characterized nor have the medical response strategies which have been developed to effectively manage these encounters been well described. The purpose of this article is to provide a descriptive epidemiology of the clinical encounters reported during extended law enforcement operations, as well as to describe a best practices approach for their effective management.

Design: This study retrospectively examined the clinical encounters of the Maryland State Police (MSP) Tactical Medical Unit (TMU) during law enforcement-extended operations incidents lasting 8 or more hours. In addition, a qualitative analysis was performed on clinical data collected by federal law enforcement agencies during their extended operations.

Results: Forty-four percent of missions (455/1,047) supported by the MSP TMU lasted 8 or more hours. Twenty-six percent of these missions (117/455) resulted in at least one patient encounter. Nineteen percent of patient chief complaints (45/238) were related to heat illness/dehydration. Fifteen percent of encounters (36/238) were for musculoskeletal injury/pain. Eight percent of patients (19/238) had nonspecific sick call (minor illness) complaints. The next most common occurring complaints were cold-related injuries, headache, sinus congestion, and wound/laceration, each of which accounted for 7 percent of patients (16/238), respectively. Analysis of federal law enforcement agencies’ response to such events yielded similar clinical encounters.

Conclusions: A wide range of health problems are reported by extended law enforcement operations personnel. Timely and effective treatment of these problems can help ensure that the broader operations mission is not compromised. An appropriate operational strategy for managing health complaints reported during extended operations involves the deployment of a well-trained medical support team using the core concepts of tactical emergency medical support.

Author Biographies

Matthew J. Levy, DO, MSc

Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Nelson Tang, MD

Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, School of  Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


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How to Cite

Levy, DO, MSc, M. J., and N. Tang, MD. “Medical Support for Law Enforcement-Extended Operations Incidents”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 9, no. 2, Apr. 2014, pp. 127-35, doi:10.5055//ajdm.2014.0149.