Law enforcement agencies around the country are lauding the effectiveness of an old medical tool that the Evansville Police Department has used since last year to save multiple lives.

The usefulness of the modern tourniquet by police was documented last June after Evansville Police Officer Kyle Thiry used one on a 6-year-old girl who had been hit by a car and was bleeding profusely from her right arm. Thiry was credited for saving the girl’s life.

“That girl was tough,” Thiry told the Courier & Press last year.

The police department got the tourniquets — and the training for officers on how to use them — through the Evansville Police Department Foundation in February 2013. Two other officers, Lenny Reed and Ryan Winters shared the Downtown Kiwanis Club’s “2013 Officer of the Year” award partly because of their efforts getting tourniquets to every officer.

Reed said tourniquets have been credited with helping save at least 11 lives since Evansville officers got them. Reed said some officers started tourniquet training in 2012.

They fell out of battlefield favor during the Civil War, when prolonged use invited amputation, particularly for wounded men who lay on the battlefield for days. Those fears lingered, and tourniquets were rarely used, even in Vietnam. But despite the instrument’s history, the new version is all modern.

The type the Evansville Police Department uses is a Combat Application Tourniquet, which is now the official tourniquet of the Army. Instead of cloth and metal, modern tourniquets feature Velcro and a plastic rod known as a windlass. But the basic operating principle has not changed since the Civil War: The device compresses damaged limbs to the point that blood vessels are squeezed shut and bleeding stops.

But it was at war where people started to see their usefulness again.

In 2004, John Holcomb, a combat surgeon and director of the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute, was asked to help research combat deaths. That study found that deaths from blood loss were largely unchanged since Vietnam, when about 7.4 percent of fatalities bled to death. In the early years of the war in Afghanistan, hemorrhaging caused about 7.8 percent of deaths. Doctors concluded that applying a tourniquet could cut those numbers. By 2011, deaths from bleeding extremities had decreased to 2.6 percent. The military is where Thiry, who served in the Indiana National Guard for nine years, was initially trained on how to use the instrument.

“The only silver lining that comes from any war is improvements in medical care and specifically in trauma care,” said Holcomb, who helped led the push to give Houston police tourniquet kits.

In Houston, all 5,000 officers are expected to be carrying the kits by September. Dallas officers got the same equipment late last year. New York and Los Angeles are in the process of obtaining them for their officers.

Locally, the Evansville Police Department has trained members of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office and state police on how to use tourniquets.

Another reason law enforcement agencies have started to use tourniquets is because of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Bystanders and medical personnel at the scene had made tourniquets out of anything that they could to help those most critically injured immediately after the bombs went off.

“They were effective, but it was clear that if police officers had had them, we would have been in a much better situation to stem the bleeding,” said Ed Davis, who was the city’s police commissioner at the time of the incident.

Within two months, Davis ordered tourniquets for the Boston’s 2,250 officers. Thiry, who is also credited with using one to save a man’s life who was slashed with a steak knife, told the Courier & Press last year that all emergency personnel should have such equipment, just in case.

“There’s no excuse for any department, or any first responder for that matter, to not be able to have the knowledge of use and basic understanding of this. They’re only $20-30. What if she would’ve passed?” Thiry said, referring to the 6-year-old girl. “What is that worth? It’s better to have it and not have to use it than need and not have it.”

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