NEW HAVEN - Last month, in a span of several hours, 17 people overdosed and three died from fentanyl-laced heroin in New Haven. So, Mayor Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven) wants all cops trained on, and supplied with, the antidote Narcan, which does not please everyone.
The police union president says the city's top police priority should be rundown police cars.
"I was just informed yesterday that we are down 13 vehicles," officer Craig Miller, president of the New Haven Police Elm City Local. "You know, these are priorities. You know, we can't perform our job if we don't have the proper equipment."
Police are not even defined as first responders in New Haven.
"We provide the best possible service and the fact is very simple: we get there first," Frank Ricci, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 825.
Excluding training costs, supplying each of New Haven's roughly 400 officers with a Narcan kit would be an initial $40,000 hit. Many of the victims require more than one dose, though. So, three options are on the table, including "to equip every police officer, to put them in every patrol car and to also look at particular areas that are high-risk areas," said Rick Fontana, the city's Director of Emergency Operations.
The presidents for both the New Haven Police and Fire unions said it is not just that the Fire Department almost always arrives to medical emergencies before the Police Department. Safety is also a concern if police were involved, including officers, with unsecured guns on their hip, bending over to tend to victims, according to Ricci.
"Their hands are at the patient's face, maintaining the airway and breathing, but where is the situational awareness? Their firearm is exposed," Ricci said.
A big concern of the police department is officers needing to find a spot to carry the Narcan on their body.
"A lot of officers are going to have to start wearing drop pouches to carry the stuff on their leg and, you know, you do run into issues of tactical safety," said officer David Hartman, spokesperson for New Haven police.
Months after ordering all fire apparatus to carry Narcan, Harp is pressing forward.
"In the hands of all first responders, in the hands of social service providers, the mayor's idea is we should have the Narcan available as much as possible," said city spokesperson Laurence Grotheer.