Focus on Community Safety

The Law Enforcement EMT Program

By Jonathan Hankins

A group of students working together.

If a medical incident occurs in a rural area, the nearest ambulance could be at least 10 to 15 minutes away. The wait may be longer if several emergencies happen at the same time and there are only two rescue squads to respond.

The Tazewell County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) serves one of the largest counties in the state by land mass. Covering approximately 520 square miles, featuring vast mountain ranges, and inhabited by around 40,000 residents, the county is served by a limited number of rescue squads available at any given time.

Wanting to provide better services, the TCSO’s sheriff and a member of the board of supervisors saw a way to decrease response times. They recognized that citizens deserved to feel safe and have confidence that when calling 911, they would receive a quick response.

Since COVID-19, staffing shortages that impact rescue squads have become a critical issue for emergency services. In a world where seconds can mean life and death, the sheriff and board member, along with Tazewell County’s 911 center and emergency services, developed the much-needed Law Enforcement EMT (LEET) Program.


In the program, interested deputies can obtain their EMT certification. By doing so, they can fill the time gap from the 911 call to the arrival of emergency services in cases where a rescue squad could be engaged in another crisis or multiple incidents simultaneously. Sometimes, the EMT deputies are closer to the medical emergency than an ambulance and can begin triaging the patient and providing lifesaving measures while relaying vital information about the individual to the responding rescue squad.

Tazewell County’s 911 director, also an EMT, was instrumental in facilitating the training courses, working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to obtain equipment for the deputy EMTs. The deputies attended Southwest Virginia Community College’s Southwest Virginia Paramedic Program and applied for financial aid, which paid for most of the training. Medical equipment needed for the EMT deputies was paid for by American Rescue Plan Act funds, except for automated external defibrillators, which were purchased with grant funding through Carilion Hospital in Roanoke.

All police cruisers were inspected and certified through the Virginia Department of Health as nontransport medical vehicles because they were equipped with the necessary EMT equipment. The 911 center developed a computer program to alert dispatchers of which deputies are EMT certified.


Tazewell County deputies often have been the first responders in medical emergencies, stabilizing patients before the rescue squad arrived. Citizens feel safer knowing that EMT-certified deputies are on patrol 24 hours a day.

In addition, several school resource officers are EMT certified. While most schools have a nurse, a certified EMT deputy allows for immediate communication with dispatch so responding rescue squads have real-time information.

Further, the courthouse — one of the most volatile places at any time — has EMT-certified deputies. Stress and tension, at an all-time high for many people entering the facility, can create medical emergencies, and having EMT deputies on site has been beneficial.

Finally, the TCSO’s Special Response Team has EMT-certified deputies, which is crucial because the team often finds itself in situations where a rescue squad cannot enter the scene to render aid to injured personnel.


The Law Enforcement EMT Program has been one of the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office's most important ever implemented. Policing is about public service and saving lives. Having deputy EMTs allows the department to better serve the citizens of Tazewell County. Additionally, some of the EMT deputies are now employed part-time with local rescue squads, providing those agencies with some relief for staffing shortages as well.

An image of two people moving a medical stretcher and students practicing CPR.

“Sometimes, the EMT deputies are closer to the medical emergency than an ambulance and can begin triaging the patient and providing lifesaving measures while relaying vital information about the individual to the responding rescue squad.”

Captain Jonathan Hankins serves with the Tazewell County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office and is a graduate of FBI National Academy Session 280. He can be reached at