Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Alameda Incident: 'First Responders' Who Don't

Police officers and firefighters stood on the shoreline for the better part of an hour and watched a suicidal man kill himself without intervening. Then they left the recovery of the man's body to a bystander. If a one-off incident it would be horrific enough story, but upon reflection and questioning the fire chief seemed to say that this was policy. Now I really do not like to second guess the police or firefighters as they have an exceedingly dangerous job. It is what the chief added to the comment however that should get people outraged. If he was off duty he would save a hypothetical victim, but if on he would have to follow procedures and let the person die. There is something seriously wrong with policy if first responders are less likely to respond when on the clock then when off.,0,2999499.story (via)

"On Memorial Day, a suicidal man waded into San Francisco Bay outside the city of Alameda and stood there for about an hour, neck deep in chilly water, as about 75 bystanders watched. Local police and firefighters were dispatched to the scene after the man's desperate mother called 911, but they refused to help. After the man drowned, the assembled "first responders" also refused to wade into the water to retrieve his body; they left that job for a bystander.

The incident sparked widespread outrage in Northern California, and the response by the Fire Department and police only intensified the anger. The firefighters blamed local budget cuts for denying them the training and equipment necessary for cold-water rescues. The police said that they didn't know if the man was dangerous and therefore couldn't risk the safety of officers.

After a local TV news crew asked him whether he would save a drowning child in the bay, Alameda Fire Chief Ricci Zombeck gave an answer that made him the butt of local talk-show mockery: "Well, if I was off duty, I would know what I would do, but I think you're asking me my on-duty response, and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures, because that's what's required by our department to do."

If you stand a better chance of being rescued by the official rescuers when they are off duty, then what is the purpose of these departments, which consume the lion's share of city budgets and whose employees — in California anyway — receive exceedingly handsome salaries?
The unions defend their members' every action; to the extent that they admit a problem, they always blame tight budgets.

The unions that represent first responders also have a legislative agenda to reduce oversight and accountability.

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