Damage to all emergency services...
If an incident like this took place in the state of the New York, as well as other states, the trooper could face criminal and civil liability for the obstruction of a rescue. The trooper's actions delayed patient care and impacted quality of patient care. The simple fact of the matter is that the trooper responded emotionally to a small error on the part of the ambulance driver. Emergency vehicle operators often face difficulty in navigating through traffic safely and efficiently. If a police officer, trooper, deputy, etc. cannot maintain themselves in a professional manner and my lack the ability to control emotional outbursts, then they become a danger to the public. It is not uncommon for emergency vehicle operators to face vehicles on the roadway unable to or unwilling to properly yield the right of way. Most emergency vehicle operation experts would probably agree that the use of emergency lights and sirens in the operation of the vehicle is over depended upon. It is most important that emergency responders realize they must maintain full control of their vehicle at all times in emergency operation especially. When any vehicle operating in “emergency conditions” engages an ambulance, school bus or highway/roadway maintenance area it is the responsibility of emergency vehicle operator who is driving under “emergency condition” to ensure the safety of those outside his or her vehicle. With regard to approaching school buses ambulances or public works/construction zones there is no greater error than that emergency vehicle operator feeling or believing that it is safe to pass those vehicles or personnel at high rate of speed. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior. If a police officer cannot understand the danger associated with approaching these specific types of apparatus or areas, then again that individual becomes a risk to public safety. Under emergency conditions the operator of a vehicle must be prepared to take measures to ensure public safety.
All emergency vehicle operators should understand that the greatest dangers faced in our operation of emergency vehicles, as the unexpected movement or lack of movement by other motorists. But there are few accidents that are more tragic than those involving multiple emergency vehicles. Emergency medical services, law enforcement and fire and rescue agencies that utilize lights and sirens to warn the public of their approach must engage in constant and vigorous training to ensure that every operator understands not only the consequence of their actions, but the realities of actions they may need to take.
In observing the facts only presented in the news media, we should realize that whatever call the trooper had been responding to, was of such little importance that there was still enough time to return to the location of the ambulance prior to its arrival at the hospital. Emergency conditions are often overused by all emergency services. It is essential for all emergency responders to also understand that an “emergency” is not necessarily the same from one person to the next. Not knowing what the nature of the trooper’s emergency call or the nature of medical emergency onboard the ambulance, it is still plainly logical to see that in a short time this law-enforcement officer became emotionally unbalanced in his anger toward the ambulance crew. Having enough time to clear the call and return to take out his anger on the ambulance crew, regardless of the reality of the emergencies involved. In doing this the trooper demonstrates his own inability to maintain his professionalism and emotional stability, as well as a reckless disregard for public safety and other public safety workers.
generally the law is not a clear as to the rights of an emergency worker’s rights in the performance of their duties while caring for patient. (At first glance I was unable to find anything specific.) Certainly there is no definable legal statute in this case, however there are clear statutes in regard to patient care, and the right of the patient to be cared for. Had the trooper followed through with the arrest he would have most certainly denied that patient of the right to medical care, and interfered or obstructed that patients care. Taking action such as this, over a potential traffic violation, is most certainly reckless and also quite obviously a willingness to endanger the patient by forcing the medical care to cease by way of impeding the paramedics ability to care for the patient. This may or may not be life endangerment, depending on the level of care being provided. Now I'll try not to “if” this too much, but it was the responsibility of the trooper to realize or take into account variables and unknowns that could contribute to the threat of life safety. For example; if appropriate care involving medications were administered by the medic causing an allergic reaction, that the paramedic would be unable to care for or correct as a result of his arrest, the patient would then suffer the consequence. That being said I feel it necessary to point out that one of the paramedic’s duties is to attend and protect the patient. Until the patient is delivered it safely to the hospital and under the care of appropriate medical facilities, it is the responsibility of the paramedic to act as the patients advocate and medical care.
As it appears in this circumstance, keeping in mind that we only have the news reports to go on, the trooper interfering with the operation of the ambulance and patient care was absolutely unacceptable behavior. The trooper should have taken note the ambulance identification and later sought out the operator / crew at a time when the ambulance was not engaged in its duty.
It is also important to realize that the trooper involved did appear to responded to the situation with uncontrolled anger. We're not talking about the arrest of a gang member engaging in a felony, this was a paramedic engaging his duties to treat, attend, protect and advocate for his patient. More importantly this was not the individual driving the vehicle that perpetuated the failure to yield complaint. This type of action, especially coupled with media coverage, and the Internet could easily lead to increasing tensions between police officers and other emergency services. This type of incident being blown out of proportion, and becoming center stage creating animosity can only do damage to all emergency services in the eyes of the public. There is no need for police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and the various other branches of public safety to develop more of an “us vs. them” mentality. It is essential that we all work together, and utilize the appropriate systems in place to address problems, very simply the incident should only be addressed through the appropriate Chain of command.
I do not think it would be a stretch of the imagination to give benefit of the doubt to the ambulance driver in this case, as I said all emergency vehicle operators have faced motorists who simply did not notice them. It should never be cause for this level of excitement in any emergency vehicle operator.
A quick note in regards to the law: generally speaking police officers are only well-versed in criminal procedure and penal law, sections of vehicle and traffic law pertaining to “the rules of the road” and specific sections for “special conditions”. Outside of these areas of law, a police officer does not necessarily have any understanding or specific training. Therefore it is important to realize that although they are “law enforcement” the function of the police is not one of supreme jurist action. The legal system is built on various levels to address the diversity of issues among the citizens of each municipality, state and the federal government. Because of the complexity of the law throughout the United States, the system in place provides various levels of law-enforcement (including: police, probation, corrections, etc.), attorneys both for the prosecution/complainant and defense, judges of increasing levels authority and finally a jury. These levels within law are designed to settle all matters of law. The police are not rule of law, but are the sworn servants and protectors of the law and the public for which the law is enacted.