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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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. Patient Success Manager, USA for mySugr (All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the position of my employer).

Diagnosed in April of 1980, I recognize the incredible mental struggle of living with diabetes. Read more…