New View on Medical Evaluations for Police

By Brown, Richard; Samo, Daniel | Public Management, May 2011 | Go to article overview

New View on Medical Evaluations for Police


Brown, Richard, Samo, Daniel, Public Management


Law enforcement officers are often the most visible agents of state and local government. At the local level, the cost of providing law enforcement services is one of the most significant appropriations for any community.

The largest part of funding law enforcement also involves the expenses associated with paying for personnel and their benefits and expenses. Local governments spend a great deal of time and expense in the appropriate selection and training of law enforcement candidates. They are using standards and guidelines for testing and training that give consistency to the law enforcement profession.

This, however, has been missing in the medical evaluation of officer selection and retention. The medical evaluation of officers is usually left to local physicians who may not always understand the unique requirements of the law enforcement profession. There is a dearth of guidance to help physicians make informed medical decisions.

Officers perform a critical, dangerous job, a job that can put them, their coworkers, and the public at risk if they are unable to perform essential job tasks. Who is capable and who is not capable to do this job has been poorly defined in the past. A multitude of local and state guidelines and standards have attempted to do this, but none of them--with the exception of the California POST--was based on any scientifically substantiated data. Thus, one would see such phrases as "to a reasonable degree of certainty" or even "moral certainty" as reasons to allow or disallow someone to become or remain as a law enforcement officer.

New Guide

Since the introduction of Guidance for the Medical Evaluation of Law Enforcement Officers, published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), this situation has changed. Seven years in development, this electronic, subscription-based guidance is intended to provide physicians with information to assist them in making medical qualification recommendations that promote the health and safety of law enforcement officers at the same time it ensures they will be able to protect civilian life and property.

In addition to its target audience of physicians who provide medical care for law enforcement officers, the publication is also a valuable tool for public safety personnel and members of national and international associations representing officers, law enforcement executives, local government managers, attorneys, and insurers.

Existing medical evaluation sections cover diabetes, vision, hearing, cardiovascular disease, and medication use. Sections currently under development include pregnancy, infectious diseases (in the approval process), and seizure, bleeding, substance abuse, prostheses, and pulmonary disorders (in the development process).

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New View on Medical Evaluations for Police
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