I was first made aware of this bizarre incident on Michael Eburn’s blog Australian Emergency Law.
It appears that a CHP (California Highway Patrol) officer arrested a firefighter in Chula Vista for refusing to move a fire truck, rather deciding to continue to treat an injured casualty in the accident. The firefighter was detained for 30 minutes and placed in a police car, but was later released without charge. The chief of the Chula Vista FD has been in crisis talks with CHP to ensure that this situation will not occur again.
In 36 years of emergency service work I have never seen this happen in NSW. Nor would I expect to! I would expect (and indeed demand) as a senior ranked officer, that patient care take precedence over the moving of an emergency vehicle. The CHP officer should perhaps be out controlling traffic and leaving the paramedic/firefighter to his job. Perhaps the firefighter has grounds for an action of “hindering an emergency worker from carrying out their duty” (or similar) against the CHP officer. In the UK, by virtue of The Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006, it is an offence to assault, hinder or obstruct an emergency worker (for example, a paramedic, doctor or nurse) while they are carrying out their duties. The penalty can be up to £10,000. The myriad of emergency service officers operating in the USA probably contributes to this situation.
I do remember testy operations between members of the Ambulance and Police Rescue Squads in NSW, who both would be dispatched to the same motor vehicle accident, or entrapment and would be a bit of a race to see who could get to a scene first and commence rescue operations. Rescue services were rationalised with the introduction of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act in 1989, which in part gave control of reponding rescue resources to the Police Radio Senior Operations Officer (SOO), who ensured that only the nearest (qualified) rescue unit responded. However this sort of thing never happened, but I never did understand why police were involved in rescue operations. These days, Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) carries out most of the rescue responses.
This post is slightly different from that of Michael Eburn’s as it shows some of the follow up actions of the Chula Vista FD with the CHP. Find Michael’s legal view here.
For what it’s worth, I support the firefighter.
This is not the first time a police officer has arrested a fiirefighter in the course of carrying out his duty. Observe this incident: