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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

4 lessons to learn from bystander video of medics, cops, and firefighters

EMS professionals need to learn and apply the hard lessons of unprofessional behavior recorded by civilians

By Arthur Hsieh

Updated July 10, 2015

Can you imagine how fellow police officers feel when they see these videos of officers ignoring 911 calls being published throughout their city through the public press?

We've seen similar behavior to this with EMS and fire folks, be it poor taste in social media posts, confronting and allegedly pushing a person recording video, angrily telling someone to stop filming, tipping a patient off the stretcher or being caught on video by members of the public.

Again, we as viewers should exercise caution — video can be manipulated just like any other media, and it only captures situations out of context.

However, in the case of the police officers ignoring 911 calls it seems that the internal affairs of the department built the case over an extended period of time, and have built an evidentiary case that may be hard to deny.

As always, there are lessons to be learned from all of these incidents caught on film.

1. We are an easy target

The uniform we wear and the vehicles we drive scream public service, regardless of being public or private, career or volunteer. Imagine a big bull’s-eye painted all over you, with a sign that says, "Pick me! Pick me!" to the person with a recording device.

2. Public expects professionalism

Being professional is an expectation of the public. Meaning, rising to the occasion each and every time is the minimum behavior expected by our community. Anything less is a trigger for a complaint.

3. Don't mix personal business with work

Think twice about mixing personal business with professional business. Reference point, number 2.

4. Garner community support

Knowing that human behavior is, well, human, foster good feelings about the department, all of the time. Strong community support will help to soften the blow created by the behavior of a couple of bad apples.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor 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
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