TAMPA, Fla. — Remembering a tragic event and working to make sure it never happens again — that’s the goal of Celebrating the Life of Arthur Green Jr., a memorial dinner honoring the man whose death last year has led to lasting change in how Florida police officers deal with those who suffer from diabetes. The dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at the University of South Florida’s Gibbons Alumni Center, and features a number of community leaders inspired by Green to fight for change in the state Legislature, including Green’s widow, Lena Young Green, state Rep. Ed Narain and the night’s keynote speaker, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP attorney Erin Smith Aebel.
Green, who suffered from diabetes, died last April while in police custody. He had been driving erratically while undergoing diabetic shock and the officers mistakenly believed he was intoxicated.
A longtime community patriarch, Green was known throughout Tampa as a respected and beloved neighborhood leader. His widow, Lena, has worked for years as a community activist and as a staff member for former state Rep. and Sen. Jim Hargrett in Tallahassee. With a commitment from Ed Narain, then a candidate for the state House, she seized on the idea of a bill, the first of its kind in the United States, to mandate training on the signs of diabetic shock for all police officers in the state. Then she went to work getting it passed.
“We never want to allow what happened to our family to happen to another family,” says Kareem Young, Lena’s son and Green’s stepson. “We’re going to make a change.”
Working with Narain, who was elected in November 2014, Lena traveled repeatedly to Tallahassee to push for a statewide training law. Narain, meanwhile, secured support from a number of law enforcement groups, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Benevolent Association. State Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon filed the Senate version of the bill and pushed for its passage in that chamber.
“I saw this as the right thing to do, not just for the Green family, but for diabetics all across the state of Florida and the nation,” Narain says. “Good policy is bigger than politics, and this is good policy.”
Another group Lena contacted early on was the Tampa chapter of the American Diabetes Association, where Aebel serves as the chair of the Community Leadership Board. Aebel got involved in diabetes advocacy after her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4. When she read about Green’s death, it instantly struck a chord.
“That’s my worst nightmare, thinking about my daughter going into diabetic shock with no one around to help,” Aebel says. “After meeting Arthur's family and Rep. Narain, I knew I needed to help make their bill a reality.” Aebel enlisted the support of the American Diabetes Association and contacted state Rep. Dana Young to argue in favor of the measure.
A freshman lawmaker in the minority party, Narain was able to rally support for the bill, dubbed the “Arthur Green, Jr., Act.” The text of the law calls for police training on how to recognize the symptoms of diabetic emergencies, in particular how to distinguish them from “alcohol intoxication or drug overdose.” It passed unanimously in the state Senate and with only one no vote in the state House. Narain says he’s “confident” Gov. Rick Scott will soon sign the bill into law.
The May 23 dinner is intended to further Green’s legacy by raising money for the newly established Arthur Green Jr. Memorial Foundation. The nonprofit provides opportunities to young people and works to educate the public about diabetes. The group hopes that other states will use the new Florida legislation as a model for their own police training rules.
“We want the police to have this resource, because these types of tragedies are completely avoidable,” says Aebel. “Just recognize the symptoms and give them sugar. That’s all you have to do. It sounds simple, but it saves lives.”
About Erin Smith Aebel
Erin Smith Aebel is board certified as a health law specialist by the Florida Bar. She represents physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers in business law, including fraud and abuse, Stark, HIPAA and licensure. Erin also advises on a variety of Florida health law issues including the developing medical marijuana law. Erin's clients include hospitals, physicians, physician group practices, diagnostic imaging centers, pharmacies, clinical laboratories and medical spas.
About Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP is a full-service business law firm with more than 240 lawyers, 60 paralegals and 495 employees in five offices: Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; Tampa and Sarasota, Florida; and Charlotte, North Carolina. In each of its markets, Shumaker is the premier provider of quality legal services to individuals, small businesses, health care providers, nonprofits and Fortune 500 and international corporations.