Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong speaks during a news conference on Jan. 22 regarding a fatal police-involved shooting.
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Mike Brown
Fire Chaplain Kenneth Brown opened the Memphis Fire Department's recruit graduation with prayer and a Bible passage saying, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die ..."
The scriptures from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 seemed fitting for the historic graduation at First Assembly of God Church.
The Friday night ceremonies marked the first time that Memphis police officers had completed the training through the fire department to become emergency medical technicians. Four officers were in the first group of graduates.
Detective Patrick Fox said he went through the program with fallen officer Martoiya Lang in mind. He was driving to work Dec. 14 when he learned officer Lang had been gunned down. He said he drove to the scene and comforted her team members, but after Friday Fox can offer a new level of support -- life support.
"I was in a state of disbelief," Fox said about hearing Lang was shot along with officer William Vrooman, who survived his wounds, on the morning of Dec. 14. "We had planned to go shopping Saturday. She loved to shop."
In the two years that Toney Armstrong has been the director of the Memphis Police Department, 11 officers have been shot, with two being fatally wounded. Armstrong said he's not proud of that number and got his department involved in the EMT program with the idea of not only protecting people, but saving lives.
"We're partners," Armstrong said of the fire department. "Them allowing us to participate just solidifies that."
Mark Boyd, MFD chief of training, said it took two months for the department to get clearance from the state EMS board to train the men in blue for 14 weeks. He said finally winning EMT certification for officers Vaughn Brown, Timothy Jackson, Fredrick Worthy and Fox, a former firefighter, was worth the wait.
"Now they can fix each other and if they beat us to the scene they can start doctoring themselves," Boyd jokingly said to the crowd Friday night.
Brown, who works at MPD's training academy, said he plans to pass along what he's learned to his future classes, which will benefit people in extreme situations.
"With all of the mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, it's good to have that knowledge," Brown said. "EMS isn't going to go into those situations until we've secured and cleared the scene. A person can bleed out in four to six minutes, so what we do is paramount."
Brown said, "People typically associate police with putting handcuffs on them. Now we can save their lives, too."
Copyright 2013 - The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service