Something wrong with a policy that prevents rescuers from rescuing…

So it is old news now that in Alameda, Ca. firemen and police officers stood by a let a guy drown –well he wanted to drown; he was committing suicide — because a city policy forbade them to do land-based water rescues.

And that is because their water rescue program was discontinued after it ran out of funding due to tight budgets and taxpayer resistance to higher taxes.

Now, I understand, the program is to be reinstated and the policy has or will be changed in favor of the rescues.

The current fire chief, who just recently took the post on an interim basis, as I understand it, was said in one report to have implied that the same response, or non-response would have taken place had the victim been a small child (not suicidal).

One or more talk show hosts suggested that this might be a sign of the times or a harbinger of things to come in this era of tight budgets and taxpayer resistance.

And there was talk to the effect that rescuing someone in the water without proper training or even with proper training, is a risky venture. Often those being rescued pull the rescuers down with them in panic.

There was also talk of emergency personnel being damned if they did put aside policy and damned if they didn’t break policy and perform a rescue.

Here’s the thing in a nutshell as far as I see it:

I will not second guess the emergency personnel rank and file.

And I will not automatically blame “stingy” taxpayers. People resist taxes partly from the fact of the outrageous and true stories they hear about fraud and waste in government.

Who I blame is the so-called leaders, be they city councilmen, county supervisors, department chiefs, whomever, for not having enough guts and even enough common sense to realize that you cannot have a policy that forbids emergency personnel to respond in an emergency.

And the leaders in Alameda must be especially dense. I mean Alameda is on an island. It is surrounded by water, yet they had forbade their emergency personnel to perform water rescues.

To add irony to all of this, I understand, the water was only chest deep on the victim.

Maybe some fire chiefs and other city officials are more concerned about planning their plush retirements than ensuring they are operating under reasonable policies.


The good to come out of this is that other localities are examining their own policies in this regard after the incident that has drawn national and even international attention.


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