North East Police Pioneer Law Enforcement’s Involvement in Ambulance Service

Deputy Frank Muller in the early 1980s with his sheriff’s office medic unit.

The recent discussions about how to improve the delivery of ambulance service in Cecil County brought to mind an earlier time when a similar examination was going on.  Back in the early 1980s the fire companies struggled to find enough volunteers to answer the heavy volume of calls that came in each day in the growing county.Frank Muller, who was a deputy sheriff, came up with an innovative idea, a Deputy-Medic program.  Muller, a certified law enforcement officer and advanced life support instructor, had just returned from a four year stint in Ocean City, where an ALS program has been established.  Deputies were on the road 24/7 so why not have the officers certified as EMS providers support the fire company, he reasoned.

Everyone thought this was a great idea as it supported the existing volunteer system, so one day in 1982 medics started prowling the county, but they weren’t in ALS units.  These medics in patrol cars answered police calls, served court papers, transported prisoners, and responded as support units to the fire companies.  That preliminary step in what would evolve into the modern Emergency Medical Services system we have today, helped a lot with pre-hospital care.

But this approach of having law enforcement personnel help deliver ambulance service wasn’t new.  The North East Police Department, jump-started the idea thirty years earlier.  Concerned about the availability of an ambulance to transport sick or injured people to the hospital, the town council arranged to buy a combination police cruiser-ambulance.  Soon on a day in June 1953, Officer Otis Ferguson started patrolling the town, keeping an eye on things.  But if there was a medical emergency, he was right there too, providing transport to Union Hospital.  Three years later, the North East Volunteer Fire Company launched an ambulance service (1956).

North East’s combination police cruiser and ambulance. in 1953

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