Over 1,100 died this past year when interacting with law enforcement and over 100,000 suffered injuries that required a visit to the ER.
ER doctor Geoffrey Mount Varner MD, MPH, has seen the aftermath of what goes wrong when the police have altercations with civilians. In fact, after seeing the injuries pile up over the past two decades, he couldn’t remain silent any longer.
“My 11-year-old son is old enough to be killed by the police. As a father of an African American boy, I’m especially concerned with what could happen when black youth are stopped or pulled over by the police,” says Dr. Varner, who authored a book to address what one should do when pulled over or stopped by the police. He hopes parents read the book and encourage their children to follow these invaluable steps.
Home Alive: 11 Must Steps to Surviving Encounters with the Policee empowers parents with survival skills to teach their children to make it home alive. It provides the necessary advice of what one should say or do in a vulnerable situation.
Dr. Varner has seen many people come into the ER that have experienced violence. His two decades of experience includes serving as the medical director and assistant fire chief for EMS in Washington DC and the chairman of Emergency Medicine at Howard University Hospital. He also served on the DC mayor’s EMS Task Force.
“I recognize that many people are going to disagree with at least a few of these rules and that’s okay,” says Dr. Varner. “But by having a discussion of what to do in such situations will help our young black men and other youths return home safely.”
“This book will save your child’s or loved one’s life. It is not about rather you agree or like the recommendations. It is about seeing your loved one alive. When it comes to my son, I can fix whatever happened to him and his ego during the police encounter. But I can’t fix death. Just get him home and both of us can address the encounter.”
He adds: “It is sad and unfortunate that this type of book is needed. It pains me that we even need a book like this but more and more Americans — especially black males — are being injured and killed each year and we need to offer help in any way we can.”
Below is a Q & A with Dr. Varner:
1. Dr. Varner, what inspired you to write Home Alive? As a practicing ER physician of two decades who used to run a level-one trauma center in an urban environment for several years, I bring a unique perspective to the debate of how we can save lives when civilians interaction with the police. I have seen too many casualties that have come as the result of civilian-police confrontations. I have an 11-year-old son who is old enough to be killed by the police. When a recorded video killing of a young black person at the hands of the police surfaces, I make my kids sit and watch the video with me and we use the media story as the basis for our ongoing police relations conversation. After one of the videos my son asked me: “What are you doing about this, Daddy?” This is my answer to that question.
2. What makes your book different? You are not a lawyer or in law enforcement, so what makes you qualified to speak on this? I am an emergency medicine physician, a Harvard graduate, a father and someone who sees the impact and pain from death every time I go to work. I uniquely know that regardless of the who, what, when, and where of death, there are people who are left to endure the unending pain of having lost a loved one. My unique perspective based on seeing sudden death and violence in the ER combined with the fact that I have two siblings who were both former prosecutors and are now sitting judges, I have a perspective that no one else can have in the world. There is not a law, or even two laws, that can be passed that will suddenly stop the American crisis of police killings and deaths. This crisis is going to take years to solve. In the meantime, 3.4 citizens are being killed per day, with a disproportionate number being young black males. And a disproportionate number of the young black males are unarmed. We have an American crisis. We are the cavalry. We must immediately start saving lives. Based on over 2,000 hours of research and interviews, I developed a survival tool kit that will immediately begin to save lives.
Part 2 to follow.