By Craig Hastings
I’ve been doing this for thirty-eight years, and I want to think there is nothing else I need to learn to finish out my law enforcement career. Notice I didn’t say there isn’t anything else I could learn, only that I didn’t need to learn. I dread most all classroom, sit-down, listen-and-learn training sessions. I hoped after serving my twelve years of sit and listen in the Tuscola School system my time was done. My hope was short lived because just five years later a very good friend of mine who was currently a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy invited me to ride along with him on his midnight patrol shifts. At that time I was enjoying my first stint in the newspaper business employed by my mother and father who owned both The Tuscola Journal and The Tuscola Review. I was hooked, barb through my jaw and not even trying to wrestle free. For the first time I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Tuscola Police Chief Tom Harris recommended to then Mayor Chris Hill that I be hired as a part-time police officer for Tuscola. A year later a full-time position opened up, and, again, Tom and Chris agreed I would be a good fit for Tuscola and so on June 9, 1980 I began my full-time career here. I would also begin a whole new era of seat time in many classrooms enduring hours and hours of sit and listen learning time. I hated most of it. Oh I learned the things I needed to know, but I hated sitting still in rooms full of other people for hours on end. I know plenty of people that enjoy this environment every bit as much as I hate it, and I to this day don’t understand why.
Every so often a class would come around that captured my attention, and I actually could say I enjoyed it. I wanted to learn by doing hands-on training and not as much by the “Be ready, this might happen” application. My very best teacher in my entire life was a mechanic by the name of Kenny Nelson. Kenny was all about hands-on learning and for me it wasn’t just automotive mechanics. Kenny taught me the hands-on learning of life itself and all the misgivings, lies, truths, the good, the bad, and the never understanding that attaches itself to all of what was waiting ahead of me…starting at thirteen years old. I remember the first time I ever said to Kenny: “I can’t figure this out.” He glared at me with fire in his eyes and bellowed back at me: “Hastings, you remember this and don’t you ever forget…. Can’t never did a god damn thing!” One of many times he scared me to death back in the day with his gruff tone. There were many of those events over the nearly five years I was privileged to be tutored by Kenny. I’ve said these very words to both of my own sons when they’ve given up on something with “can’t” included. God I miss that guy.
This brings me to tonight. Tonight I coordinated with Adam Chacon, an instructor in the use of NARCAN or Naloxone, the medicinal application that best reverses the effects of an overdose of opioid derived products both obtained legally (Rx pain meds) and illegally (heroin). If you’ve watched or read any news in the last year you know of the opioid crisis affecting the United States today. I’ve watched the progression of these medical emergency calls move from an ambulance response and administer, to First Responder, usually Fire Fighters, response and administer, to first on scene Police Officer response and administer. Naloxone was first administered only as an injection (shot) under the skin or into a muscle. Today it can also be administered as a nasal spray paving the way for those of us leery of needles and glass bottle medicines to be more comfortable administering naloxone in the field.
This was one of those sit and listen classes mostly I dread. But not this one tonight. For me it’s always been about presentation and tonight the presentation couldn’t have been any better. I was attentive, because this is new and uncharted territory for me. Mr. Chacon kept me interested and ergo kept me learning with words alone and without hands on which I prefer. After tonight Tuscola Police Officers will carry NARCAN with them on patrol. Thirty-nine years ago when I was hired here as a part-time police officer I couldn’t have ever imagined my patrol duties would eventually include me carrying a drug overdose nasal spray! How did society ever get to this today? In 1979 Rich and I were told we might want to keep plastic garbage bags in the car in case someone would throw up in the back seat. Those bags along with a few band aides were the extent of our emergency medical overdose equipment back in the day. Fortunately for me my time is about up. I don’t envy the new men and women entering this career.