CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A new Florida law will allow for armed paramedics in high-risk situations.
Clearwater Police and Clearwater Fire Rescue are opting in, convinced doing so will save more lives.
But make no mistake: Clearwater will not be arming just any paramedic. The law specifically applies to tactical medics, or SWAT medics, who are trained for and often find themselves in dangerous situations without a way to defend themselves.
Arming paramedics is an idea Clearwater has explored for years but had no easy way to execute until this legislation, according to Deputy Chief of Police Eric Gandy.
“Our tactical medics are going into extremely dangerous situations with us, unarmed,” Gandy explained.
Nine Clearwater Fire Rescue paramedics also serve as SWAT medics, deploying every time the SWAT team does, ready to render aid.
They go through training with the SWAT officers and even wear the same ballistic gear, with one exception…an empty holster.
“If I send them in with a rescue task force and law enforcement officers are shot, wounded, or killed, I have…or, I would have had…an unarmed medic, before this legislation,” Gandy said.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater) in response to the massacre at Parkland and recommendations presented by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law last Friday.
Medical professionals carrying firearms are required to complete annual firearm safety training and tactical training, the measure says. Gandy expects other local agencies to follow suit in arming paramedics.
Hillsborough County already employs armed SWAT medics, because unlike Clearwater, those medics are also sworn officers.
At the end of the day, Deputy Chief Gandy says armed paramedics will boil down to one vital result: faster access to the “hot-zone” with fewer reservations.
“These are the folks who need it,” he said. “It’s better for the victims. It’s better for survivability.”
The new law goes into effect on July 1.
Clearwater Police says there are a few details to sort out but anticipate the program would be ready to go by end of summer.