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Cop pulls gun on firefighter: Lessons to learn

EMS1.com News

November 08, 2012


EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Cop pulls gun on firefighter: Lessons to learn

I can feel the heartburn of the jurisdiction's risk managers as they try to figure out how to shield the city or town from the liability of a personal vehicle crash.

By Arthur Hsieh

Looking at the video recording, I didn't find it clear that the law enforcement officer was overreacting in this situation.

If his viewpoint was the same as the dash cam, he was pursuing a vehicle that was running at high speed and through stop signs through a residential area.

Wisconsin vehicle code does allow volunteer firefighters to equip their personal vehicles with red lights and siren, though they were not visible nor audible during the time of recording.

Here's a larger concern: I understand that, in a fire, every minute does count. It's very predictable that way.

But I'm not convinced that the damage by fire is worth the risk of being killed or killing another person in a crash while responding to the call.

Beyond the issue of injury and life loss, insurance companies are not likely to cover the damages unless the personal vehicle had been designated an official emergency vehicle.

I can feel the heartburn of the jurisdiction's risk managers as they try to figure out how to shield the city or town from the liability of a personal vehicle crash.

Many firefighters also have roles as EMS responders. The argument becomes even murkier in these cases, for the need for speed to an incident.

Given the current controversies about the importance — or lack thereof — of speeding to a call in an ambulance, no less a personal vehicle, I don't believe that the risk is outweighed by the lack of benefit.

Let's stay safe out there folks.
 

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
Comments
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Greg Friese Greg Friese Thursday, November 08, 2012 5:19:43 PM This is fairly incredible. Must watch the video dash cam footage. I regularly estimate how incredibly difficult work is for police officers.
Skip Kirkwood Skip Kirkwood Thursday, November 08, 2012 5:38:12 PM I'm with Art. This has nothing to do with the driver being a responder. This officer was in pursuit of a reckless driver who was failing to yield to a police vehicle. You do the crime, you do the time. If a community relies on responders coming from home in POVs, the policy-makers have already decided that response performance doesn't matter.
Keith Owsley Keith Owsley Thursday, November 08, 2012 6:16:41 PM I first read the article and all that is going on with it BEFORE watching the video! And then AFTER watching the video....ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! GROW UP FELLAS!! AND PUT THE EGO'S ON THE SHELF! BOTH parties had valid points....work it out as adults! This is CRAZY that it has gone this far!
Nicholas Eisele Nicholas Eisele Thursday, November 08, 2012 6:45:13 PM If anyone is owed an apology, it is the police officer.
Lew Nix Lew Nix Thursday, November 08, 2012 7:01:54 PM IT begs the question cops ask me when I am speeding, "...on your way to a fire, buddy!"
Glen Walsh Glen Walsh Thursday, November 08, 2012 7:43:39 PM Wether in a marked/licensed vehicle or wacker-mobile, all responders have to operate with due regard, more so than the civilian driver, who also must operate with the same set of principals, but, responders know more than anyone the result of careless regard, no light, siren or vehicle can change that.
Scott Nasby Scott Nasby Thursday, November 08, 2012 7:44:51 PM I can not get over any one taking the police officers side on this. 1st Exssive speed yep booth are at fault on that any 90 MPH call is silly. And that could have been fixed later after the call the FF was responding to was done. The Officer is also at fault for doing what he thinks is a chase. He was abel to radio every one eles in the world reporting millage ect why did he not ask I there a fire or ems call. Dispatch yes or no if so why not ask for a retone or radio message requesting to slow down. I too once was chased by PD and thought we was going to the same call and the officer in my case thought I was in the wrong for useing lights and siren outside my home county when my EV premit say's STATE not county. I feel the cop is also in the WRONG by not leting the ff out of his car. Drawing his gun OM goodness that's fource un nessecery already. The video does not show other important reasons why I feel this way that the story inlightens me. By the time the two vehicles pulled into the station, a bay door was open and other firefighters were arriving, so the situation should have been clear to the officer. Yes it should have been clear to the officer and should have apoiged right then and let him run his call and even go to the call as well. witch brings up my first point wy not radio the Dispatcher and ask is there a fire/ems call. Was there realy a police impesantion call? or was this made up. A lot of flag cars have lights on them as well and people think they are Police/Fire/EMS cars and when they see flag car they call 911 and complain. In some states or should I say Areas Fire and Police get along real well and visit each other and are like family. If this would have be in this case a lot of hard feelings would be diverted.
Dan White Dan White Thursday, November 08, 2012 8:41:12 PM I actually see this as a whole lot over very little. Whackers will respond. Nobody did anything very dangerous. Everybody respected each other and went home safe. S@#t happens. The cop had every reason to be concerned, and the whacker went home with a lesson. How could you ask for more? I am just glad many of my most informative learning experiences were not recorded on video.
Iver Johnson Iver Johnson Friday, November 09, 2012 7:47:43 AM Any state that allows red lights and/or sirens on private vehicles will have this problem. That being said, I don't think either party over-reacted in the video, and the interaction was pretty calm and collected for what it could have been. Questions...Why wasn't the Officer able to quickly verify a medical call through the dispatch? Is there really that much of a disconnect? Why didn't the responder have some sort of radio or phone to call into dispatch? This looks like much more of a system problem and not a personal problem.
Iver Johnson Iver Johnson Friday, November 09, 2012 7:49:42 AM Any state that allows red lights and/or sirens on private vehicles will have this problem. That being said, I don't think either party over-reacted in the video, and the interaction was pretty calm and collected for what it could have been. Questions...Why wasn't the Officer able to quickly verify a medical call through the dispatch? Is there really that much of a disconnect? Why didn't the responder have some sort of radio or phone to call into dispatch? This looks like much more of a system problem and not a personal problem.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 8:56:14 AM Unfreaking believable that the fire chief condones the driving of this firefighter and even states all of his responders drive like this. This police officer was totally within his right to do what he did. He needed to get a very dangerous driver off the streets regardless of whatever other suspicions he had about a crime being committed. It disgusts me to think this guy could have driven a fire truck. At speeds over 100 mph at night and passing on hills with poor to no visibility is just stupid. AND, this was to a NON EMERGENCY call. The fire chief needs to be checking his response policies before attacking a Police Officer for doing his job. If a cop tells you to stay in your car, keep your ass in the car. Getting out of it and coming towards a cop demonstrates aggressive behavior and in this case the officer responded appropriately. Actually, he was also justified if he decided to do an aggressive take down and handcuff this guy.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 9:01:07 AM If a cop tells you to keep your ass in the car, you do so. To continue to come towards a police office constitutes aggressive behavior. Here the Police Officer would have been justified if he had done an aggressive take down and handcuffed this guy on the ground. Hopefully the Police Officer won't hesitate next time because of the reaction from the fire department to be more aggressive or it could cost him his life. This firefighter has no respect for the fire or police departments and definitely should never be allowed to drive any type of emergency vehicle.
Eric Baron Eric Baron Friday, November 09, 2012 9:41:09 AM i dont know if you know this but police officers in many states are exempted from the vehicle code during pursuits, the other thing is just because you pull into a fire house doesn't mean you belong there, people always do U turns in front of the station and that doesnt mean their parking here. While i see what your saying police and fire both play by a set of rules. Should the officer have been doing 90 MPH? probably not, but he was allowed to in this state. The other thing is why should the officer check if there are EMS or Fire calls in the area? if he thinks the car hes chasing is running from the law or DUI those are whats on his mind. I agree that its a good learning example for both sides
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 12:22:29 PM One more thing to note. The FF was responding in a POV to a NON emergency call. It was stupid of him to assume the real emergency vehicle behind him with emergency lights and sirens activated was not actually going for a REAL emergency call. Therefore, the FF in his POV should have yielded to the right to allow the emergency vehicle to pass or in this situation stop him. This FF should also take note of what happened in NYC with the 2 fire trucks responding when neither want to yield or drive with due regard for traffic rules.
Carolann Quinn Carolann Quinn Friday, November 09, 2012 2:51:56 PM Ok, first, I agree that the man broke the law but pulling a gun when the man was picking up the ambulance was overreaction. It's like a police officer tasing someone multiple times when they are down. Second, really, Skip, and how many volunteer calls have you been on? In my 10 years of being a volunteer, I always responded FROM home on 12 hour shifts in my POV and they did so care how long it took me to get to the station. I quit because I got yelled at for being too slow to respond to the station for being safe. Oh, and the insurance WAS MY OWN! The township did not cover any part of my insurance! As far as why he didn't pull over, what if it was a woman responder? Should she pull over on an empty stretch of road? Besides, how were they suppose to know that they were not goping to the call? POLICE OVERREACTION!
Rusty SirWilliam Shaver Rusty SirWilliam Shaver Friday, November 09, 2012 2:53:41 PM I see an officer who for a long period of time did not have direct contact with any vehicle and several side roads to which a vehicle could have left the road or came onto the road. I respect the officer for his training but to pursue a vehicle that you no longer have in sight is a real risk to yourself and the public. He might have been after the right vehicle at first and then just happen to see the firefighters car and assumed it was the same vehicle.
Todd Propson Todd Propson Friday, November 09, 2012 3:30:02 PM Chaplain.....its attitudes like yours that make it bad for the rest of us. And its attitudes like yours that kill FF and innocent bystanders.
Scott Nasby Scott Nasby Friday, November 09, 2012 4:05:03 PM Ok I think you guy's have miss interputed my thoughts. In WV we also are allowed to exceed the speed limet AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT ENDANGER LIFE AND PROPERTY. And in this case any one responding 10mph past posted speed limet is dangerouse, to all. Booth parties was in the wrong ff for going that fast. PD for chasing that fast. Pursute was wrong even it was not a ff it endangers life. Simpel as that. Again why not RADIO dispatch and ask to reponding unit to slow down. It works in WV why not every wear eles. If PD FF & EMS would just visit each other have a social activity get to know each other. Learn who drives what . Again it works hear in WV Todd I m sorry that you feel my attude is wrong. I am also a 33 year FF/EMT and Training Officer and my guys /gals play well with each other we are all friends caules we know each other. Like I said the same thing once happened to me when I responded to house exspolsion/w intrapment. The Police followed me with blue lights fashing and all that. We crossed the county line he kept comming. I was not going to stop caules I 1st due. And only 1 man on the engine. When I parked and stated Dawning my gear. He told me he was going to get a warrent for my arrest. With flames showing I told him if needed my lic to follow me in the burn house to rescue the ppl inside. Later the next day the rookie officer was inlitend that our EV permits mean state not county. Who was in the wrong hear? Well his capt felt he was and apolgsed to me. I dont know in your states but our FF EMS POV have speacial taggs that ID us as EM personell. Could that have helped maybe. so. well I dont know what eles to say but I feel the officer was wrong. But from the video we all realy dont know the ff side of it other than he thoufght they was going to the same call. And why the others at the station did not jump on the truck and ask the office via Radio/ PA is our guy comming with us or not. I think that also would be a sign that there was indeed a call to run, after all the offcer should also be charged with delaying a emergency call. Witch goes back to why oh why did he not talk to dispatch and ask is there a fire call. Now I feel I have explaind my point till I have beaten a dead hourse.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 4:26:48 PM Police over reaction? A traffic stop after a high speed chase in the middle of the night and someone who fails to listen to the words "don't get out of the car"? There was no way of knowing what or who was in that car especially since the only FD response was supposed to be non emergency in the area. Yet, you have a car traveling recklessly at a high rate of speed and passing other cars dangerously. If anything this officer let this jerk off too easy. Getting out of the car should have gotten him in cuffs and eating dirt face down on the ground. At night and traveling at 100 mph there is no way to tell if it was a man or woman behind the wheel. Maybe you offering sex to get out of a ticket works on a cop you know but it won't work on all. It probably won't work to help you out committing a felony either.
Robert Clayton Robert Clayton Friday, November 09, 2012 7:03:10 PM I hope his counter parts stop the next responder that may be on the way to save his life when a criminal shoots that cop and then tell his family well he was going too fast to save your family members life so we detained him from doing that.
David McLeod David McLeod Friday, November 09, 2012 7:24:18 PM I read in a previous article the Volunteer Firefighter did not pull over because he thought the Police Officer was responding to the same scene? When I read that, I thought WTF! Seriously, why would a cop follow a vehicle (even if he knew a Volunteer Firefighter was driving it and going to the same call) especially a POV with no lights/sirens/markings, and why did the Volunteer Firefighter not yield to the Police Officer who had his lights and sirens activated? Although we are only going off what is being presented in the articles, the Volunteer Firefighter and along with all the other Volunteers who respond to the station and/or the scene need to understand they have no special privileges or rights to ignore the rules of the road, especially since they are in a POV with NO markings, lights or sirens. If that mentality continues, I guarantee someone will die in an accident, which would be horrible. Not knocking Volunteers at all, just trying to help prevent a tragedy.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 7:30:22 PM Do you really need to get into threatening the cop and his family with stuff like that? This is really a lame comment to justify driving 100 mph at night passing cars on hills with limited visibility to a NON EMERGENCY call. Geez! when will the need for speed crap ever go away and some commonsense prevail in this profession. There is NO need to drive recklessly to a non emergency call or any call. It the person dies in the extra few seconds you saved by excessive speeds there was probably not a damn thing you could have done for them no matter how fast you got there. How many EMTs, Paramedics, patients and members of the general public have to die before EMS gets a reality check over their fascination with lights, sirens and speed? This officer did what was right even at putting his own safety at risk making a very risky night time stop without back up. Right now this volley FF just sounds like he wants to make a fast $50k off of his own ignorance. If he wins, EMS loses and the reckless deadly driving will continue.
Rod Gift Rod Gift Friday, November 09, 2012 7:55:27 PM WOW I hope this @#$% #$% is no longer a donut holder and is faceing charges of obstruction of a fire/ EMS personal. I also see the cop speed of 97 mph and late in starting his so called chase. Must been a boring night Since seeing a car with red lights n siren and I'am sure the famous HIPPA violation is given to the area Dept's anyhow?
G.w. Wilkins G.w. Wilkins Friday, November 09, 2012 9:02:00 PM if you click on the link the pov was equipped with lights and siren and he had them on... the fireman was in the right even when the cop caught him they never got over 65 and the cop reached 101 in the video you do the math who was more careless?
G.w. Wilkins G.w. Wilkins Friday, November 09, 2012 9:02:50 PM thats stupid? the cop ran the tags it was a emergency vehicle tag how is that going to be fake?
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 9:04:44 PM Responding lights and sirens at a high rate of speed and passing on hills to a NON emergency call? Any cop doing their job would be suspicious of a POV driving recklessly especially if they knew the only call going down was for a non emergency response. This gives whackers everywhere a bad rep. This cop deserves a metal for attempting to make the streets safer. Now the chief needs to see this guy never drives a fire truck again and removes all whacker gear from his POV. BTW, it is HIPAA.
G.w. Wilkins G.w. Wilkins Friday, November 09, 2012 9:05:50 PM Eric Baron watch the video you can see the flashing of the red light in the dash?...just saying
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 09, 2012 9:10:36 PM G.w. Wilkins The call for the FD was NON emergency. Any idiot driving recklessly with L&S on a POV claiming to be going to this NON emergency call should be treated with suspicion. This is night time and what the cop did was completely justified. In fact, the cop was way too lenient and his hesitation to be more aggressive could get him killed.
Kevin VanDaele Kevin VanDaele Saturday, November 10, 2012 3:14:16 AM Somebody trying to make a quick buck. How ridiculous. I feel bad for the police officer.
James Burke James Burke Saturday, November 10, 2012 6:40:50 AM Speeds of 90mph? He was endangering his saftey as well as the publics. Lights are sirens or not that is reckless. Lights and sirens are a warning device, not a magic sheild that keeps you safe.
Todd Propson Todd Propson Saturday, November 10, 2012 10:52:55 AM Chaplain, I understand BOTH sides. However, if you listen to the audio, the officer stated there have been complaints about a black car with a red light, that has been impersonating an officer. Now with that bieng said, even if he did call dispatch, how is the officer to know that this wasnt the car that was bieng looked for ??? I myself have a red light and siren in my POV. I do not do 80-90 mph either, and some of them roads were not the straightest. The police did the right thing, ONLY because he did not know who or what he had at the time. He was looking at it as a safety issue with him. Having emergency lights and a siren does not give you the authority to drive like an idiot. If you or your crew do not get there safely, you are no good to anyone, and if you wreck, you just took personel from the fire, to go and rescue you. Thanks for your input, and stay safe....
Don Lyng Don Lyng Tuesday, November 13, 2012 9:16:38 PM Wackers are funny! Get an actual JOB doing it!
Skip Kirkwood Skip Kirkwood Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2:49:29 AM Here's a simple rule of life that will avoid many problems. If a police officer signals you to pull over, pull over. THAT's the law. Look at the statute - it doesn't say "except firefighters" anywhere. As far as "calling dispatch to see if there is a fire or EMS call going on," you've got to be kidding. "Dispatch, MEDIC-91 is en route to 123 Main Street. I see a police car - are there any bank robberies going on?" Sorry - doesn't happen, won't happen, shouldn't happen. The officer was taking care of business. If you don't like what the police tell you to do, do it anyway and sort it out later. Otherwise, you are likely to get hurt. Be smart.
Skip Kirkwood Skip Kirkwood Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2:50:26 AM And for some entertainment, search out what the judge said to the Miami officer, driving a marked car on the interstate highway, who was stopped and ticketed by a highway patrol officer for reckless speeding. It's educational.....
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Friday, November 16, 2012 8:30:21 PM Dan Greenhaus You need to do some more investigating. EMS and FF plates can be purchased in many states just like "Save the Whale" plates. They mean very little and most of the time the money does not even go to the organization. According to Wis. law, a POV tricked out in L&S is not an emergency vehicle and must still obey all traffic laws along with yielding to one which is like the cop car. Speeding and passing cars on a hill with a double line in a POV are stupid, stupid things to do. The lights and sirens don't make you invincible. The call was also for a NON EMERGENCY response. This cop had every reason to believe this was a whacker or impersonator up to no good by his actions. The cop should have done a hard take down and have this FF eating dirt for awhile. That hesitation was the cops only mistake and could cost him his life. The FD chief is crazy for not having a policy which protects the public from the adrenaline junkies on his squad who are a danger to the public. I think they also should investigate further as to how this FF has been using his L&S in his personal vehicle.
Andrew Birkhoff Andrew Birkhoff Sunday, November 18, 2012 11:05:46 AM I don't know, doesn't seem he was traveling that unsafely by most standards of a vehicle responding with lights and siren, as dispatch report on the audio. There was very little traffic and he slowed down in a condensed area. He was using turn signals and coming to almost a complete stop at most intersections. I didn't see anything that reckless. As he stated to officer, he was using due regard. The police officer pulling his weapon seems a bit over the top, but traffic stops are very dangerous for law enforcement. Standards for responding POV very from state to state. As in most cases like this, there's apt to be more to it.
Andrew Birkhoff Andrew Birkhoff Sunday, November 18, 2012 11:15:17 AM I got pulled over by CHP in '86 while returning from a long distance transport in a private ambulance. The officer was less then pleasant. From what I understand, there had been some history of "bad blood" between the the local service of the area and law enforcement. Just say'n...
Merri Bulgier-Bright Merri Bulgier-Bright Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:18:03 PM :/

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