Reader Mike T. suggested that someone here blog about this story. Probably readers have already seen it. Firemen and police weren't "allowed" (the scare quotes are intentional) to rescue a suicidal man from the water because of legal worries leading to departmental rules against water rescue. You see, they aren't certified in land-based water rescue, so they could be sued (heaven forbid) if they tried to rescue someone from the water. What, exactly, might happen that would lead to a lawsuit isn't clear. It's not as though the man could sue them for not letting him die. But suppose he struggled, and he inhaled some water, and then he sued them for trying to rescue him and precipitating the situation. Who knows? I'm just making up a scenario in which they could be sued. Presumably the department would have fired anyone who tried to rescue the man, because otherwise the department could be sued.
Fire chief Zombeck literally told the news that he would rescue a drowning child under similar circumstances if he were off duty but, if he were on duty...well...there are these procedures he would have to follow, you see. Which presumably means, "Nope. I'd let a little girl drown under the same circumstances. Maybe I'd beg a bystander who wouldn't lose his job to go rescue her."
This is insane. Putting on the uniform, being on duty, means that you aren't allowed to help people.
Sort of. Of course, they could have just acted like human beings and damned the consequences. Is that really asking too much? It doesn't seem to me that it is. I'll bet there would have been many contributions to a legal defense fund, not to mention offers of a job, should someone have behaved like a decent human being and suffered repercussions.
But the fact that the system puts huge pressures on its rescue personnel, its firemen and police, pressures that these grown men are unwilling to defy, not to help someone--not even an innocent child--means that the system is seriously warped. It's enough to make one wonder how many other protocols there are like this, and when they might become relevant to one's own life. In how many other situations are "rescue" personnel not allowed to rescue?
Alameda had better change its protocols fast. And stop whining about budget cuts, for crying out loud. What a pathetic liberal response: "What's that you say? We have an insane rule in our department? Well, throw some more money at us and maybe we'll change it."
And if there are other cities with relevantly similar laws, it might behoove ordinary folk to know about it. So you can be sure to call a neighbor instead of a policeman or fireman if you actually need help.