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Home > Topics > Community Awareness
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Which shade of blue are we?

By Arthur Hsieh

Washington D.C. fire and EMS were ordered by Mayor Vincent C. Gray to go on late-night patrols to high-crime areas, and during the day to provide payday protection for residents enrolled in the city's youth-jobs program. Needless to say, but this move has raised the hackles of many in the fire and EMS communities, including some union representatives.

I am uncomfortable with the directives that the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Services have to follow.

I'd like to believe that as rescuers, the community associates us as unbiased helpers who will take care of them regardless of the reason or situation. And, as professionals, that's how we try to treat our patients, regardless of our personal perceptions of the patient's behavior.

Based on recent stories, it appears that DCFEMS personnel are being ordered to assume a more enforcement-like role in protecting the public, escorting groups of people during the evening through high crime areas of the District.

That's worrisome. The potential for conflict looms large, and the ability for personnel to protect themselves, as well as the citizens they are tasked with protecting, is questionable.

Longer term ramifications are even more significant. It seems obvious that any potentially negative feelings that result from this event could linger long after it is over.

Would the community be less accommodating of rescue personnel entering a tense situation if they confused security type behavior with helper type behavior?

DCFEMS has had its share of bad publicity over the years, some of it deserved. But placing them in a position that is probably not helpful, and in all likelihood may be harmful, is just asking for trouble.

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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