- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A prominent Arkansas physician who doubled as a special weapons and tactics officer has retired from law enforcement.

Facing terminal cancer, Dr. Marvin Leibovich, 68, officially hung up his tactical gear and was commended by Arkansas State Police and Little Rock police at a surprise ceremony this month, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1HuWH7f ) reported.

Leibovich, a state Board of Health member, had been accompanying both police agencies on tactical operations since 2001. He started with the Little Rock police in 1992.

As a certified law enforcement officer, Leibovich was fully armed and equipped when the agencies responded to high-risk calls and executed search and seizure warrants. He treated injured officers and criminal suspects, and he worked for no pay.

His full-time job was as a medical administrator and researcher, leading departments at UAMS and Baptist Health medical centers.

But the self-described “adrenaline junkie” had a strong taste for police work.

“I remember sitting in the SWAT van with him on the way to a search warrant,” said Little Rock police officer John Gilchrist, a tactical team member from 1995 to 2004. “He said, ‘John, I’d give up everything to do what you do full time.’ The thought was genuine.”

Leibovich said he was mostly “on the sidelines” with the state police. But he breached doors, subdued suspects and, on several occasions, avoided gunfire with the Little Rock police tactical team.

“There were several episodes like that,” he said. “Fortunately, I would say probably as far as absolute deadly force, shoot-or-don’t-shoot, I’ve been in that position three times, and I never did shoot.”

He treated injuries in the field that ranged from sprains and broken bones to gunshot wounds.

Leibovich, a Memphis native, was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2012. He said that after finishing chemotherapy this year, his treatment options had been exhausted.

His last call was in Clarendon in 2013, when state police responded to a man who had shot at local police and barricaded himself in his home.

The danger of those situations never bothered Leibovich, he said. He’s approaching the end of his life the same way.

“I’m just kind of waiting on the inevitable,” he said. “But I guess if you’re afraid of getting killed or you’re afraid to die, you just have no business on a SWAT team. That’s not a problem for me. I’ve had a good life.”

Professionally, Leibovich was a pioneer.

He started Baptist Health Medical Center’s MedFlight helicopter program, the first air ambulance service in Arkansas, in 1984. Baptist Health reported last year that MedFlight had aided nearly 20,000 people since its creation.

In his 26 years at Baptist Health, Leibovich was chief of emergency medicine and director of the emergency trauma department.

He’s also a former chairman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ department of emergency medicine, where he created a course to train other physicians in tactical medicine.

“I always have felt that an emergency medicine doctor should be able to apply his or her medical skill in the emergencies with a gun,” he said.

Leibovich became interested in law enforcement after treating a Little Rock tactical team member who had fallen from a rappel tower and injured his head during a training exercise. Leibovich completed the mandatory six months of training and, soon after he first laced up his tactical boots in 1992, became the oldest member of the Little Rock team. But he held himself to the same standards as officers 10 to 20 years his junior.

“On the team, everybody has to be able to do everything everyone else is expected to do,” he said.

That included training with the team several days a month and passing skills tests to remain qualified.

Officers said Leibovich, who many affectionately refer to as “Doc,” was an unwavering friend away from tactical team operations. Many saw him wearing a white coat and stethoscope more than a helmet and firearm.

“He’s always been there,” state police Director Col. Bill Bryant said. “He loves law enforcement, and we love him.”

State police tactical team commander Lt. Robert Speer shared that sentiment.

“Doc’s always been a giver. You know, there’s not many people in this world with his credentials, his status in the medical world, and especially the community in Little Rock that would volunteer his time,” he said.

When Speer was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, Leibovich was an unofficial liaison for the surgeons, radiologists and other doctors who treated him.

When asked how many officers he’d personally helped, Leibovich replied, “All of them.”

But in the past few years, it’s been the tactical team officers who have been caring for “Doc” - in their own way - during his illness.

“I guess you would have to say that, really, the guys on both of the teams have been very, very supportive. They come around, they check on you and kind of keep you up on what’s going on. But do you miss it? You have to. It’s been such a big part of your life,” he said.

Speer said they plan to be there for Leibovich until the very end.

“When I went through my cancer, he walked every step of the way with me. And when Doc came down with his cancer, you know we’ve been walking together on this, too,” he said.

Leibovich, who lives in Alexander, has served as president of the Pulaski County Medical Society, president of the Arkansas chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Emergency Medical Services and co-chairman of the Governor’s Trauma Advisory Council.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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