NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -- When rookie police officers find themselves in life-threatening situations they turn to their training officer to learn how to get through safely and alive. But when it's the training officer who is in trouble, the new officer has to act on their own.
That's the situation Mike Jean-Baptiste found himself in Saturday night as he and his training officer Michael vonSpreckelsen were eating dinner around 8 p.m. in the North Plainfield Police Department's break room.
Officer vonSpreckelsen began showing signs of choking, and was unable to dislodge the food stuck in his esophagus on his own. His trainee was ready after weeks of oversight, and Jean-Baptiste immediately began to implement his training. He first began with blows to the back, but his supervisor remained at risk.
So Jean-Baptiste switched to the Heimlich maneuver, a process ironically made all the more difficult because vonSpreckelsen was wearing his department issued bulletproof vest which is designed to protect the body from sharp blows -- like a Heimlich thrust
Fortunately Jean-Baptiste is strong and committed, and he was able after a few attempts to dislodge the dinner was successful. He had saved his training officer's life.
Even before Saturday night vonSpreckelsen had written up his report recommending Jean-Baptiste end his training and be permitted to patrol North Plainfield on his own.
"My guess after this life-saving event," said Police Chief William Parenti. "Officer vonSpreckelsen felt he made the right decision."