Friday, February 7, 2014

CHIP Cuffs Chula Vista Firefighter

A California Highway Patrol Officer Tuesday night handcuffed a Chula Vista Firefighter, who was doing his job. A local TV crew caught it on tape. A Mustang hit a railing on I-805 off Telegraph Road Tuesday evening around 9:30pm. The car flipped over and landed in a construction site. Two occupants were injured. The Chula Vista and San Diego Fire Departments responded with three fire engines. I-805 has multiple lanes. The fire engines were parked in the far left lane. Hire Departments have learned the hard way the need to secure a scene and protect everyone involved, the victims, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, by positioning a fire truck to block oncoming traffic. Highway patrol officers often believe their mission is to facilitate the flow of traffic. Thus, they try to clear the scene of an incident. The police and firefighters came in conflict Tuesday as they all too often do in highway accidents. Conflicts have unfortunately been common in San Diego and Orange Counties. The difference this time, and why the public knows about what would otherwise have been a routine accident, is that San Diego TV station, KFMB CBS 8, videoed the resulting conflict. The video has gone viral. An unidentified California Highway Patrol Officer, who we shall call CHIP Anonymous, told two of the engines to move, which they did. One of the trucks had a paramedic who had not commenced medical attention with a victim. CHIP Anonymous then asked firefighter Jacob Gregoire, a 12 year veteran, to move his truck or face arrest. Gregoire said he would have to contact his superiors. He was following departmental policies. Officer Anonymous then handcuffed Gregoire and placed in the back of the police cruiser for about half an hour. That would normally constitute an arrest for legal purposes. Anonymous was quick with the handcuffs when it was unnecessary. Fortunately, Officer Anonymous was not quick in pulling out a gun. Our Officer Anonymous apparently never realized that by placing the handcuffed Gregoire in the back of the cruiser meant Gregoire would not be able to move the fire truck, thereby keeping the lane blocked. His actions, and thus those of the California Highway Patrol, have cast them in a indefensible position in the public eye. Officer Anonymous presents us with the classic question: “What the Hell were they thinking?’ Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hannneman immediately came to the defense of his firefighter. The fore chief stated: “Our goal at an emergency is to secure the scene and begin emergency care and transport the victims to the hospital as soon as possible.” He called the officer’s behavior “ridiculous.” John Hesi, the union president, also quickly came to the support of Gregoire. Fire Chief Hanneman and California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele met Wednesday and issued this statement: “Both of our agencies have the utmost respect for each other and our respective missions. … This was an isolated incident and not representative of the manner in which our agencies work together toward our common goal.” It reads like it was boilerplate written by the public affairs officers of the two agencies. We know that this was not an isolated incidence. Nor was it the first captured on tape. The California Highway Patrol in its goal of maximizing traffic flow forgot another critical part of its mission statement: To “maximize service to the public and assistance to allied agencies.” Officer Anonymous should have been assisting the firefighters rather than harassing them. Police forces and fire departments exist to promote public safety. Officer Anonymous breached that fundamental principle. Perhaps Gregoire could follow the example of another firefighter, Captain David Wilson, who filed suit against Hazelwood, Missouri Police Officer Todd Greeves who arrested him in 2003. He sued for violation of his constitutional rights. A federal jury in February 2008 awarded Captain Wilson $7,500 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitives from the officer. The Captain parked the fire truck to protect rescuers freeing a victim trapped in the wreckage of an accident. A video, also on Youtube, caught the officer arresting the firefighter almost as soon as he got out of the fire engine. We expect our police to protect and serve the people. We also expect good judgment, training, and reasoned rules and procedures in fulfilling their responsibilities to the public. Officer Anonymous publicly failed.

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