Law enforcement officers face various risks on the field, including the risk of needle injuries. Generally, needlestick injuries occur when an officer conducts a search. In many cases, the suspect does not reveal that he or she has needles on his or her person, resulting in an unintentional injury.
Used needles are a biohazard, and officers must take extra care when faced with a needle injury.
Stay calm and respond immediately
Following the needlestick, you need to act quickly. Stay calm and composed and determine the type of needle, whether it may have contaminants and if there is a risk of infection. Your safety and the safety of the suspect should remain the priority. Ensure that you have the suspect safely detained to prevent further harm and use a sharps container or secure plastic bag to secure the needle.
Wash your hands
Following the encounter with the suspect, wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Even if you have a needle encounter where you do not suffer a needlestick injury, you should wash your hands to prevent the spread of illness.
Seek medical attention
Seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Drug users have a higher rate of bloodborne illness than other members of the population, with HIV rates at approximately 6% and HCV infection rates at 52%. Even sterile needles can cause an infection risk and officers should err on the side of caution. The physician can help ensure that you do not come down with an infection. Likewise, you may require blood tests and tests on the needle to check for any contaminants or blood-borne illnesses.
All officers must report a needlestick injury as soon as possible to their department. All departments should have a protocol in place for these incidents.