W.Va. Senate panel OKs bill to let medical professionals with SWAT teams carry firearms

EMTs and others would be protected from civil and criminal liability while performing their duties with law enforcement


By David Beard
The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A bill once again working its way through the state Senate would allow specially trained medical professionals who accompany police SWAT teams on missions to carry weapons to defend themselves.

The Senate Health Committee approved SB 83 Thursday afternoon and sent it to the full Senate.

It would allow a "tactical medical professional " trained and certified in tactical combat casualty care and tactical emergency medical support to carry a firearm while on duty with a law enforcement team.

The medical professional — EMTs, physicians, osteopaths, physician assistants and nurses — would have to be certified by the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections.

The medical professional would be protected from civil and criminal liability while performing with law enforcement.

Lead sponsor Sen. Tom Takubo, R- Kanawha, said the bill originated last year from a physician who served with a SWAT team. The idea behind it is that the medical professional doesn't want to be law enforcement but wants to have a means of self-protection when an incident goes bad.

Jess Gundy, director of law enforcement professional standards, based at the State Police Academy, addressed the committee and suggested a different approach. "I can certainly see the merits behind it, and there are some benefits to it, " he said.

But many SWAT team members are also trained in advanced medical techniques and it might be simpler to train them as EMT's, he said. He doesn't oppose the bill, though.

Takubo asked, "Why not have both ?" Having a more highly trained physician on the team would benefit the team. And SWAT members could also be trained. "It seems like the more expertise the better."

Last year, the bill had bipartisan sponsorship and cleared the full Senate 33-0, but it died in House Judiciary without seeing an agenda there.

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