Wollard 1SMALLOfficers with the Benton Police Department recently received training to determine if a subject is suffering from a stroke or diabetic complication rather than being under the influence of an intoxicant. The program instructor David Wollard, RN/BSN Outreach Nurse for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said training law enforcement officers to not only see medical warnings signs, but how to properly react is vital.

“Many times, law enforcement officers are the first to arrive on the scene,” he said. “There are medical conditions that mimic being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and historically, there have been situations in the country where officers for one reason or another have not reacted properly. Some of those cases have resulted in death of the individual because they were improperly handled for a specific disability.”

Wollard said the two common medical conditions that officers could encounter is a person suffering from a stroke or complications to diabetes. He teaches the officers to recognizing, responding, and communicating in the event of encountering one of these medical conditions.

For diabetes complications, some signs officers will look for includes: fruity/acetone breath, person is drowsy or confused or disoriented, the person has blurred vision, they are irritable or agitated, or shaky or sweaty. Officers are taught to look for a bracelet or necklace notification of diabetes, any insulin injection equipment, or an insulin pump under their shirt.

Wollard teaches the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) system for warning signs of a stroke. He said officers will look for facial droop or uneven smile; for arm weakness or drift down when raised; slurred or garbled speech; and Time is for immediate transport to the closest stroke-ready hospital. Wollard said other signs of stroke includes: worst headache, visual change, change in speech, one-sided weakness/numbness, or loss of balance/coordination.

“Diabetes and stroke are the two common medical conditions an officer may encounter on a traffic stop or if they see someone wandering or not acting right,” Wollard said. “I have another presentation that involves more traumatic brain injury, but these two are the most common and are a good starting point to get out to law-enforcement. Hopefully, now [officers] can know to take an extra second to see if something other than an intoxication is going on.”

“Obviously, there are certain situations where they won’t have that luxury. You have to act on what you have in front of you and what you're given, but hopefully they'll be able to do that more often than not. And that'll be good for everyone.”

Wollard said the program also can keep law enforcement officers and the department from being involved in litigation.

“That’s what we are trying to avoid as well as the safety of the individuals that are involved,” he said. “My hope is by doing this (program), that anybody that I've been able to talk with at the department or anyone I'm able to interact with can avoid having the wrong thing happen when interacting with an individual. Then also, avoid the lawsuits that can occur, which can bankrupt small departments.”

Wollard said this program has been taught in other states for several years, but law enforcement officers in Arkansas, until recently, have not been offered the program.

“I have a colleague that is doing this in Oklahoma that's been doing this for many years with great success and she's inspired me to do the same thing here,” he said. “Firefighters and EMS have these trainings, but law enforcement has been neglected in that area, so why not let them get this training? The hope is that I can come back and continue updated [medical] education, or that more importantly, the officers can teach their family members and fellow officers, so that the problems that are well documented in other places won’t happen here in Arkansas.”

The program is provided to law enforcement officers for free through a partnership with Arkansas Department of Human Services, Governor’s Acute Stroke Task Force, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Stroke Association, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and ARSaves (Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support). For more information, visit