Since we learned (Herald, Feb 23-24) that one of our police officers was allegedly assaulted by an arrestee spitting his own feces, friends who know my background have asked me what I think about the incident. After 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, my response has been: Been there, seen that.
And frankly, the method of delivery alleged in this case is not unique. I have been spat upon and had human blood and urine thrown at me many times. In law enforcement, its part of the job. The problem has become so widespread that in the more sophisticated agencies across the country, strict protocols have been established to care for employees assaulted with and exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
The problem is not unique to law enforcement. Nurses, EMTs, orderlies and other health-care providers are routinely attacked with bodily fluids in medical facilities across the country. It happens every day.
Exposure to bloodborne pathogens is no small matter. And there are many ways it can happen. I have been scratched, clawed and bitten more times than I can recall. Fortunately, I never suffered any long-term consequences. But I know of cases where nurses and police officers have been savagely bitten who were not so lucky.
Imagine being bitten on the arm, neck or face and finding out later that the person who bit you is HIV positive or has hepatitis. Imagine going home to your partner with that little piece of information. How was your day, honey?
I hope Officer Langley comes away from this exposure without significant consequences. And I hope the city of Durango has the appropriate protocols in place to protect its employees.
Tom Lorenzen, Durango