Captain Tyrone Collington is the commander of Takoma Park, Maryland's patrol division. His #1 mission is to save lives. Sometimes that entails the use of a powerful tool called Narcan.
Well, our number one priority from a police perspective is to save lives, and that’s what we want to do.
For our department, there are a number of us, including myself, that are trained to administer a counter drug treatment that you can give someone who you suspect to be overdosing, and what it does is it knocks off the drugs and revives the person, brings them back around. Even if it may not be an opiate, it’s harmless. It won’t cause any other type of medical effects.
Seeing people just strung out, unconscious, unresponsive, eyes may be rolled back in the head, shallow breathing, sometime they may be clammy, cold – it’s troubling because at this point you don’t know how long they’ve been unconscious, you don’t know what drug they are under. So you don’t really know how to begin administering any type of resuscitation or first aid. And you have to be careful that you don’t confuse that for some type of diabetic episode.
Sometime we get the calls from someone saying a friend has overdosed. And we have had anonymous calls where people have been left in bathtubs and it’s so sad. They don’t want to remain on the scene because they don’t want to be involved. So they’ll put the person in the cold water and left them which puts them in even more danger because they could drown. So we have to get them out of the tub and them we’ll immediately administer the Narcan drug, two squirts, one in each nostril, and that will within there to five minutes start to revive the person. To see them come back you feel like you’re helping this person live, you’ve just saved someone’s life. But I have been on scenes where I’ve seen the same person in the same state, unconscious, and you just ask yourself, you know, how many more times are you going to be able to come here to save this person before one time it’s too late.
I’ve encountered many different age groups, different colors, different race. You have a lot of professionals, students. Sometime when I see them I’m surprised, especially if it’s someone that I’ve dealt with within the community. And so I always say, you know, you never know what a person is going through, what demons they are dealing with within themselves. It’s a sickness. It’s an illness, and it’s important for us to educate ourselves, educate the community on, you know, how can we prevent this, what signs to looks for, and how to proceed with trying to get them treatment.
I’ve met a lot of good people who have had whatever setbacks and I’ve had conversations with them like, how did you get here? One incident that really stick in my mind was an individual that told me he was using for 25 years. And I asked him how do you continue to look at your body just deteriorate? And he said, you know, sometime you just -- you need it. It’s a sickness that we’re dealing with. In our mind, we believe that we can’t function without it.
So when I see people on the street using, immediately I want to refer them to like some type of health and human services. I want to get them to talk to someone. There’s always alternatives to incarceration.
Not all the people that use drugs are bad people. You know, sometimes, you know, they have chronic pain, like back problems, you know, any kind of problem. They get medication, hard narcotics, and become addicted to them. That doesn’t make them a criminal. So it’s more important for me to try to get them help, wean them off the drug, than put them in some kind of confinement. You’re taking people away from their families, you’re taking them away from their jobs, you know, you’re taking them out of the community. If it had not been for this sickness, they would be productive citizens. These are someone’s, you know, wives, sisters, brothers, daughters -- loved ones.
Sometimes they just need treatment. You know if you really want to get to the root problem, let’s get the person some help, especially if we’re not catching them breaking in the house or anything like that, we just find them using on the street. I can come up and have that conversation, like, “What got you here?” That’s important to me. Let’s find out what really happened as opposed to “This is illegal, I need to take you to jail.” Because that’s not going to solve anything. You’ll go to jail, you’ll get back out, you’ll use again. But if I can help you to find some kind of medical treatment, I’m willing to do that, to save you, save your family, save your life!
Just saving one person means I’ve done my job but there are a lot more out there to be saved.
I’m Capt. Tyrone Collington and this is my story.