ST. PETERSBURG — When he was shot in the leg on May 17, Officer Michael "Micky" Cordiviola fashioned a makeshift tourniquet out of a rubber garden hose. His quick thinking may have stanched the bleeding, but it also raised alarm at police headquarters, where officers were outfitted with $30 combat tourniquets more than three years ago.
"Some say they don't like it because it will fall out or it's uncomfortable," Chief Tony Holloway said the day after Cordiviola was wounded. "So the first thing I told my training staff was, 'Find a tourniquet that's going to help us through it.' "
Officers in St. Petersburg are required to have their tourniquets readily accessible, but they do not have to carry them on their person. Cordiviola's tourniquet was yards away in his patrol car when he went down in a shootout with Austin Goodner, an 18-year-old with a history of mental illness who died in the brief firefight, according to police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.
In addition to the combat tourniquet (widely known as the CAT-T), each officer will now be outfitted with a supplemental SWAT-T tourniquet, essentially a long strip of rubber that folds easily into their uniform pockets, Sgt. JD Lofton said.
"Now there really is no reason not to have something," he said.
The tourniquet is an ancient technology that works by squeezing shut vessels to stop blood flow. St. Petersburg police were ahead of a recent resurgence in tourniquet use among local law enforcement. The device fell out of favor in the 20th century because of concerns — since disproved — that cutting off blood flow for even a short time led to amputations.
Many police departments across the country ordered tourniquets after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Spectators at the race saved people with tied-off belts and T-shirts because Boston officers did not carry tourniquets at the time.
But St. Petersburg police administrators had already outfitted the department with tourniquets more than a year before, Lofton said, after three officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2011.
"When that happened, we really stepped back and took a look," Lofton said.
The CAT-T is a top-of-the-line model, Lofton said, but it takes up space on police belts, where most officers have little room beside essential equipment like handguns, handcuffs and flashlights. It is essentially a Velcro strap with a plastic rod — or windlass — used for tightening, and can easily be applied with one hand. The CAT-T is issued to each St. Petersburg police officer along with an $18 to $20 pouch, Lofton said. There are 550 officers in the department.
The $11 SWAT-T is a little more difficult to use, Lofton said, but it should serve as a useful supplement. To apply the tourniquet, an officer has to wrap the pliable rubber tightly around an injured limb, then fold the end of the band under to keep it secure.
Officers at a number of agencies in the Tampa Bay area also carry tourniquets, including in Gulfport and Tarpon Springs. Tampa police have handed out hundreds of tourniquets among their ranks but are trying to raise money to buy more for the whole department, spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.
Pinellas Park Sgt. Adam Geissenberger said SWAT team members have long had tourniquets, but the department this year decided to give CAT-T models to all uniformed personnel. Pasco County deputies are also required to carry tourniquets.
Clearwater police have them, and Pinellas sheriff's patrol deputies carry SWAT-T models. Their SWAT team, on the other hand, has the CAT-T, and a spokeswoman said they are in the process of giving all patrol deputies the combat tourniquet.
Lofton said that when St. Petersburg police first ordered the CAT-T, they intended it mostly for officers hurt in the line of duty. But now, he said, the philosophy is "slowly morphing" so that officers also are thinking about first aid for members of the public. A Pinellas deputy recently used a tourniquet for a victim of a traffic crash.
Lofton said he was not sure yet if Cordiviola's wounds required the tourniquet, but "a little blood looks like a lot, especially when it's yours."
Cordiviola was released from Bayfront Health St. Petersburg on crutches Tuesday.
Trauma kits and first aid have been a pet project of Lofton's since he saw Officer Paul "Jacques" LaMonde shot four times in 2009 during an investigation, he said. Fellow St. Petersburg officers at that scene had to wait for emergency medical technicians with little way to stop the bleeding on their own. "That's not a good feeling," Lofton said. "We didn't have any equipment. We didn't have anything."
Times staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.