Cops and Low Blood Sugars

Last week I was at one of the local type 1 meet-ups.  We were at a Caribou Coffee, and I noticed a couple of cops there having coffee.  I say “cops” in a general way.  Technically, I think they were Ramsey County Sheriffs.  But you know, uniform, badge, gun, bullet-proof vest bulging underneath the shirt. The term “cop” works for me.  No, they were not having donuts.

I approached them, apologized for interrupting, and asked if they had ever dealt with traffic stops involving diabetes and low blood sugars.  They had.  I asked what helps them determine it is a low blood sugar (or other medical event) rather than intoxication?

The male officer started to reply, but had a lot of trouble trying to assign words and language to the complicated “decision tree” process they instinctively fly through during an encounter.  He said that there are usually other signs or clues present when dealing with someone who is high on something.  The smell of booze, bloodshot eyes, stuff like that.  But it was clear to me that there is a lot that goes into that on-the-spot decision making, and not all of it can be clearly verbalized without careful thought.

The female officer said that one of their routine questions, when someone is acting unusual, is about medical conditions and needing help. All of the PWD’s that she has encountered have been able to respond positively to this sort of question, which then helps the officers start down a different troubleshooting angle (rather than trying to determine “friend or foe”).

I asked them if they encounter lows on the road often?  They said maybe 2-3 times each year.

This was no statistical measure of course, just casual conversation in a coffee shop.  But I left thinking that 2-3 times each year is not that much.

A couple of days later I was talking to my dad about it, and his reaction was different (and much more logical than mine).  He figured that if these two officers encountered a few low blood sugar related driving incidents per year, that it must happen pretty often! How many lows did their department as a whole encounter?  2-3 events per officer times how many officers in the department?

Of course it wasn’t a hard and fast record, and of course not every officer would encounter as many, but some might encounter more.  Any way you count it, ANY low blood sugar related incident is one too many.

It would sure be interesting to collect some figures around diabetes related law enforcement events for different areas.  I wonder what it would take to do something like that?

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26 Comments on "Cops and Low Blood Sugars"


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Tamara
10 months 20 days ago

I was helping my brother move to Florida from California recently. He is a type I diabetic. The whole trip went great. We were on our last day and in Florida. My brother was driving and asked me to check his sugar. It was at 41. He sped up just a little to get to the next exit to pull over. The next exit was less than ½ mile and he figured it would be safer. As soon as he sped up; a cop hit his lights. He pulled over and I showed him what his sugar level was on the machine as my brother was trying to explain the issue on why he was speeding up.
Needless to say, the cop went back to run his license and didn’t seem to care that his sugar was low. Luckily we had some snacks in the truck because the cop took 10 minutes to come back to hand him a speeding ticket. He told my brother to slow it down. I switched to driving after the cop was done but could not believe the cop did not care that his sugar was low. I was in shock! If we did not have any snacks in the truck, it would have been an emergency issue and it seemed to me the cop was more concerned about his ticket count than my brother having a medical issue. I told my brother to fight the ticket but he said most don’t care and it would be easier to just pay it.

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Paul
2 years 9 months ago

I agree with Darsi. As a Critical Care/Flight Paramedic(with Type 1 Diabetes for 24 years, 362 days), I think it is inexcusable that a medical condition that is so frighteningly prevalent is ignored. 1 out of every 12 Americans has diabetes; and the CDC projects 1 in 9 by 2030.

If we can do breathalyzers and blood draws for alcohol levels, and equip officers with defibrillators(AED’s) to try and abort a sudden cardiac arrest, why can we not put glucometers in the trunk right next to the AED’s? A glucometer costs $9 at Walmart. A bottle of 25 strips: $9. It should be integrated in the field sobriety protocols nationwide.

Anyone who has an altered mental status or gets a breathalyzer in the field, automatically gets a fingerstick glucose. The damn glucose testing is cheaper than the breathalyzer by about 5:1, and the blood alcohol level by about 30:1. If nothing else, roughly 1 out of every 100 police-initiated glucose tests will find someone with a sky high blood glucose that didn’t even know they were diabetic. That’s a community service.

Safeguarding those with diabetes, and saving lives in the process by getting a prompt diagnosis in an in diagnosed individual. Money well spent.

Guest
4 years 3 months ago

This an interesting post for sure. I’m from New Zealand (living in Canada at the moment though) and there was a case back home a while ago of a guy driving his car into a shop because he was hypo at the wheel.

New Zealand law treats hypos at the wheel as an offense since you have introduced a substance to your body which has caused the problem which is something I’d love to know about the states i.e. if you crash (literally and figuratively) does the law hold you accountable, in general?

If you’re interested in the blog I wrote on this, you can read it here: http://www.beingdiabetic.co.nz/2009-03-03/guest-blog-sympathy-vote-continued/

– Aaron

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[…] K. Johnson, who will talk to anyone — anywhere — about how diabetes works in the world. Cops, […]

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[…] who were on break. I recently read a great blog post by my buddy Scott Johnson titled “Cops and Low Blood Sugars” about a conversation he had recently with a couple of officers about traffic stops involving […]