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Home > Topics > EMS Assaults & Self Defense
February 18, 2014
All Articles

Violence against EMTs
by Kip Teitsort

Why medics must press charges for assault

Regardless of the sentence, pressing charges raises awareness in the eyes of the media, police officers and the judicial system, and justice on some level is usually served

By Kip Teitsort

When teaching or speaking about violence, one of the most important pieces to the culture-change puzzle is pressing charges.

In nearly every class I have taught, inevitably someone pipes up and asks, "Why press charges, the prosecutor won't do anything anyway?" I immediately address it by asking what experience has the person had with pressing charges for a work-related attack.

The provider usually then describes an incident where an assault took place, charges were pressed and the attacker received a sentence less than that of what he was charged with.

Welcome to "the system."

As a police officer I can assure you, many suspects arrested for various crimes were able to walk out before I could even get my paperwork completed. That did not stop me from doing my job, nor did it deter my frustration for how "the system" works.

Then during the judicial process, a suspect would sometimes plead guilty to some crime other than what he was arrested for. It took me a while to understand, but once I got past the black and white of the situation, I got it. "The system" is not perfect, but it works.

Here are three ways pressing charges will help change a culture.

1. It will teach media outlets about the frequency of assaults on staff.

2. It will teach police officers to understand the limitations of our training for violence on the job.

3. It will teach prosecutors and judges about the frequency of violence directed at staff.

Media

Every single reporter who has interviewed me asks, "Why do you think there is an increase in violence against staff?" My reply: "There isn't an increase, it is just getting recognition now."

Reporters have been just as shocked as the layperson when they see the numbers. But violence isn't personal until it is in your own backyard. You see, many newspapers still cover small towns. A local reporter goes into the police department and asks for a dispatch log for the police blotter in the paper that talks about which officer was dispatched to what incident.

If your local paper started covering incidents of assaults because a police report was made, the average civilian would begin to realize the dirty little secret exists.

Police

With little to no training in the use of force, many in EMS and fire personnel have learned by watching officers use hands-on techniques against a resisting subject. This dangerous learning method has led to a vicious cycle.

Providers "help" officers restrain a person; the officer also learns, although mistakenly, that providers have some sort of training. This in turn leads to officers turning over people that medical staff have little-to-no training to handle should they turn violent.

The provider, knowing only the physical side (not the when it is OK to take action and when it is not) can then try to take "custody" of a person they were originally supposed to be treating under "consent."

Prosecutors and judges

Every single prosecutor I have met would entertain a report filed by a health care provider regarding assault. When I am told stories by staff of a lack of support, I call the prosecutor myself.

I’m always told they would support the victims of a violent crime. Whatever plea agreement is reached once a case is in court is out of our hands. But just because a person is placed on probation does not mean he got off scot-free.

I am asking you to press charges. Use "the system" to make emergency medicine better and safer for those who follow us in this desire to help others in a medical or traumatic emergency.

 

Comments
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Skip Kirkwood Skip Kirkwood Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:45:07 PM Repeat the above, with exclamation points. And don't be surprised if you run in to some ignorance of the law. In one of my meetings with a police chief, where I talked about why his officer didn't handle a witnessed felony correctly (he saw the crime and didn't make the required arrest), the chief was surprised to learn that in my state, assault on a paramedic that causes bodily injury is a felony. An officer witnessing a felony MUST make an arrest. The officer, not knowing of the special status of EMS folks, thought it was a misdemeanor, and sent the medic to the magistrate's office to file charges IF the medic thought that was necessary. The magistrate declined (frustrating the medic), saying that a felony warrant had to be issued on a LEOs complaint. So.....a photocopy of the statute was made available, and education happened. The LEO filed the complaint, a warrant issued, and the bad guy was hooked and booked. (And to wrap it all up the assaulted medic was an EVE instructor, who was committed to seeing the process through to the correct outcome.) Be prepared to deal with all sorts of resistance. It is the obligation of CHIEFS and others in LEADERSHIP POSITIONS to smooth the paths for their medics who are attacked in the line of duty. MAKE THE EFFORT! Taking care of your people is the first duty of a leader - think otherwise and you become a manager or a bureaucrat. Leaders take care of their people, and work outside of their organizations to improve the lot of the people with whose safety they are entrusted.
Kip Teitsort Kip Teitsort Wednesday, February 19, 2014 5:54:43 PM As always, thank you Chief Skip Kirkwood and the National EMS Management Association for trying to make EMS a better, safer profession.
Bruce A Mills Bruce A Mills Wednesday, February 19, 2014 6:03:30 PM How surprised would you be if I told you I was involved with a assault on my partner and the duty soup came to the hospital to tell us not to press charges that the man in charge says it wouldn't look in the media . Will discuss next time we see one and other.
Sean Murphy Sean Murphy Saturday, February 22, 2014 8:22:00 PM I'm all for making "the system better", but I don't like giving people a RECORD that will follow them for the rest of their lives for an isolated incident. I want safety for myself and my partner and the public, no doubt about it. I guess it would come down to the degree of violence the patient is engaging in. Some people just have it coming and deserve some sort of intervention, I understand that as well
David Baker David Baker Sunday, February 23, 2014 5:35:30 PM Isolated incident or not, people need to be held responsible for their choices. YOU are not giving them a record, they are choosing to get one.
Melinda Teaster Williams Melinda Teaster Williams Monday, February 24, 2014 9:23:27 AM In the case below mentioned by skip why should the officer involved not also be held liable for the assualt since he felled to do his job. I see the problem being that PT's are being placed with EMS that L.E.O. should be in the back of the truck with not meeting them at the hospital. Until that changes more medics being assaulted will not change
Terri Adkins Terri Adkins Thursday, September 04, 2014 11:47:08 AM I was assaulted by a pt and the police officer told me to follow through with the felonious assault charge because she had, had a history of assaulting her brother the week before. I am a older female paramedic that tried to keep her from jumping out of a moving ambulance and that resulted in being punched in the chest and slapped across the face. Not to mention all the lovely names I was called. I have worked in a tough city for 20 years and have never been attacked for trying to be nice to someone and this girl was from the nice part of town. People have become increasingly violent toward EMS so we really need to follow through even though I would rather forget about it.

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