Washington, DC - Imagine this: your 16-year-old son asks to borrow the family car for an evening out with his friends. You hand him the keys, reminding him not to speed and about his curfew before midnight. 12:15 a.m. comes and goes … 12:30 passes also … 1:00 arrives and still no word from him. Texts don’t get returned and phone calls go straight to voicemail. “Where is he?” you wonder. Your mind vacillates between anger at a violated curfew and fear he’s stuck on the side of the road–injured, or worse…
Emergency Room physician Geoffrey Mount Varner, author of “Home Alive: 11 MUST Steps for Surviving Encounters with the Police" now available as a second edition, knows how this scenario impacts parents across America in epidemic proportions. Dr. Varner, himself a husband and father, has been a practicing ER physician for two decades and was the chief of a level one trauma center in an urban environment for several years. He’s brought his experiences, research and unique perspective to bear in the crisis so that civilian lives can be saved when interacting with law enforcement.
This book is a timely release given Monday’s jury selection beginning in the Charles Kinsey case where a Florida police officer shot this unarmed behavioral therapist caregiver as he attempted to prevent cops from shooting his autistic patient. This amid other recently reported police brutality and misconduct shooting incidents.
“I’m hoping to help all parties involved in police-civilian interactions make better split-second decisions that can be the difference between life and death,” Varner says. “Individuals being pulled over or otherwise engaged by law enforcement need to be cognizant of—and sensitive to—the experience from the officers' perspective, while police departments should also endeavor to offer enhanced training to prevent circumstances where an officer acts prematurely.”
“My 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter are old enough to worry about being killed by the police,"Varner continued. ““I have personally seen too many casualties that have come as a result of civilian-police confrontations and, as a result, I was compelled to write 'Home Alive: 11 MUST Steps for Surviving Encounters with the Police.' As an emergency room physician I’ve personally witnessed the devastating impact and despair from the sudden loss of life or severe injury. Regardless of the who, what, when and where of death, there are people who are left to endure the unending agony of having needlessly lost a loved one."
Dr. Varner has also treated police officers and has counselled their families during crisis. He uniquely recognizes that officers want to remain safe and make it home alive, too. This holistic perspective, combined with knowledge from siblings who are former prosecutors and now sitting judges, helped Dr. Varner realize there is not a law, or multiple laws, which can be passed that will suddenly stop the American crisis of police killings and severe injuries. Home Alive was written as a bridge to tactical solutions with the mission of immediately saving lives. The relevance of the topic has only increased since the book’s original release.
Also, as result of additional research, Dr. Varner determined the psychiatric community is often overlooked. As such, he dedicates a chapter in the revised edition of the book to citizens and families-at-large with psychiatric issues. According to a report published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, “Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.” According to data researched by the author, an ER physician himself, psychiatric patients are “16 times more likely to be involved in citizen-police encounters than other subgroups of citizens.”
Updates and Bonus Features of the Second Edition
The first and most immediate goal when stopped by the police is to “Make the Officer Feel Safe”—a section in the book detailing several steps citizens can undertake during a routine traffic stop to increase one’s chance of coming "Home Alive." Tips include, but are not limited to:
- If the vehicle you are in has tinted windows, before the officer approaches the vehicle, roll down all windows so the officer can see who is on the inside, even if it’s raining.
- If it’s nighttime and the traffic stop occurs, turn on the inside lights.
- Do not reach for ANYTHING while waiting for the office to approach the vehicle.
Additional highlights added to the new edition include:
- A study of the top 100 cities of police forces reviving their “use of force policies” within the last 10 years, showing a significant decrease in officer assault, citizen complaints and citizen deaths.
- More content teaching the community how to interact with officers and also state-by-state factoids. This includes detail on how Virginia and Illinois now include “how to interact with officers when stopped” as a section in their drivers' education programs. “These kind of measures are a vital step in educating the public how to interact with those in authority positions,” Dr. Varner notes.
“America has a crisis,” Dr. Varner continues. “While black males disproportionately endure and experience the brunt of the crisis, white, brown and yellow skin people are also impacted. It is an American crisis that threatens the very fabric of our country. It is imperative that we all step up and have our proverbial voices heard in any way that’s possible to help minimize unwarranted violence. You don’t need to be a doctor to save a life. Anyone can save a life. Teach someone, especially a black male, the strategies in Home Alive...and then teach someone else and then another. We can all decrease the number of unjustified killing by police.”
About the Author and Expert
Coined “Dr. Saving Lives” for his tireless commitment to preserving life inside and outside of the hospital, Dr. Geoffrey Varner is first and foremost a father, and then an ER doctor, social advocate, coach for first responders, business owner and speaker. It is his commitment to saving lives that led Dr. Varner to pen Home Alive: 11 Must Steps to Surviving Encounters with the Police. The book is one of the most comprehensive guides ever on police and citizen engagements, providing tactical, real-world strategies to lesson violence, increase understanding, and improve relations. Dr. Varner is releasing the second edition of the book in November 2018. Additionally, Varner is currently developing and seeking innovative products and services that help save lives.
A sought-after speaker, he’s presented to the likes of The American Psychiatric Association, Duke, University of Chicago, UNC Chapel Hill, Cleveland Clinic, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Prince George County Government on topics including his proprietary model for improving split-second decisions for both executives and first responders. In addition, Dr. Varner also speaks on overcoming adversity and youth development. In his professional life Dr. Varner has received numerous awards and honors, including the Mayor’s Citizen Award, District of Columbia Hospital Association STEM I Award, State of Maryland Governor’s Citation, and Prince Georges County Department of Health Citizens Citation (for work with disadvantaged black males).
Prior to founding Lifeline Medical, LLC, in Bowie, Maryland, in 2004, which consults with hospitals and health-related companies, he served as the chairman of Emergency Medicine for Howard University Hospital for seven years until the mayor of Washington, D.C. recruited him to become the city’s medical director and assistant fire chief for EMS.
Today, Dr. Varner practices in the Washington metropolitan-area. He’s also served as the attending physician for the ER at Southern Maryland Hospital and St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. When he’s not treating patients and advocating on behalf of them, he’s running marathons in Chicago, New York City and the Marine Corporation. He’s also completed several triathlons. He resides with his wife, 14-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son in Mitchellville, Maryland.