When Dealing With Criminals, What Medical Responsibility Do Police Officers Have?

Cantara: 1-800-LAW-1010, 1800LAW1010.com Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazotti on the horn.

Quinn: Hey Paul, how are you?

Paul: Hey, good morning guys, doing great, doing great.

Quinn: Grab this topic from the, ripped from the headlines, just asking the question on what police officers, what is their responsibility when it comes to medical distress when they’re in the midst of dealing with maybe a potential criminal. What is their responsibility as an officer Paul?

Paul: Well, there’s just a reasonable test out there, I mean, police officers, they see someone in distress, they see someone who needs medical attention, the first thing they’ll do is call for medical attention, right? I mean, that just happens, 99.9% plus of the time. You know in Schenectady it was certainly an awful situation there, they had someone in custody, he was unable to breathe and they didn’t call for medical attention and he died. Clearly, they just didn’t, you know, either recognize the severity of what, they didn’t believe what he was saying, you know, I don’t think anyone is sitting around saying they knew that he couldn’t breathe and failed to, right? But to your point here, you know, what’s circulating down here in Albany, an Assembly bill, which is in what they call Committee for Comments, so it may or may not see the light of day, but it’s attempting to make a class A misdemeanor if the officer fails to make what they call a Good Faith Effort to obtain medical care once someone is in custody.

Quinn: I guess I don’t understand, why wouldn’t they be doing that anyways, you know?

Paul: Yeah, and so, again, I think they do, in fact I know they do, right, [inaudible 00:01:32],and so now this statute is going to create a criminal, it’s a class A misdemeanor, not a felony, but so what? Police officers don’t have crimes against them, they don’t commit crimes, and so we’ve got this class A misdemeanor charge hanging out there, if you didn’t take, and again, it’s a low standard, good faith effort to obtain medical care, but you know, now someone dies in your custody, someone is unable to… and now you’re gonna sit there as a police officer and wonder if someone’s going to judge you, a jury or a grand jury, or…

Cantara: They’re not doctors, I mean, I get that they, I mean, regular tradition like triage…

Quinn: Okay, all right, but what about a correction officer, Paul, who’s dealing with an inmate and you’re like, “You’re not sick, you’re lying to me, I’m not sending you to the nurse,” I mean that does happen.

Cantara: Yeah, sure it does, and the correction officers, peace officers, anybody on law enforcement, they would be subjected to this, and again, you like to think that there’s going to be, sort of, once the dust settles and once the facts come to light, that they’d look at something like you’re describing, where, you know, the inmate, you know, has done this before and he’s cried wolf and, but…

Quinn: What about the paddy wagon in Baltimore, where the guy was handcuffed and they…

Cantara: The rough ride.

Quinn: Yeah, the Rough Rider deal, I mean, that’s a perfect example, they didn’t pay any attention to him.

Cantara: That’s a little bit different though because you’re causing that distress.

Quinn: That’s, yeah, right.

Cantara: This is not acting upon, it’s distress.

Quinn: That’s true.

Paul: That’s an excellent legal point, yes.

Cantara: So you said it’s in committee, so what does this mean, they’re just talking about it. It would take leaps and bounds for something to actually come out of this?

Paul: Yeah, you know, so lots of bills get drafted and it goes to committee and they’ve got four assembly folks who have signed on, meaning they believe and support this bill. So you know, it would have to get through committee, then be put to a vote, then go to the Senate, you know, before it was even approved, and then becomes a law signed by the governor. That’s sort of the 101 version of how it happens, but the fact that it’s percolating has really alerted, you know, all of the law enforcement agencies to, holy cow.

Quinn: There better be a thousand addendums and you know, in case of, you know though Paul, I mean what if there’s a, you know, a situation where someone’s hurt but there’s, the situation that made them hurt is still going on in the area, I mean, you know?

Cantara: Well, the good faith, I get…

Quinn: Okay, yeah, good faith…

Cantara: I’m with you because we like to think that 99.9% of all police officers kick ass and are awesome, so why would they want one more hurdle on a job that’s already tough enough?

Quinn: Yeah, right, exactly.

Cantara: I mean, I get that. It does seem awfully nit-picky, but I guess.

Quinn: I know, I know, really.

Cantara: All right, well you cleared it up a little bit for us Paul, we appreciate that.

Quinn: We appreciate that. Thanks, Paul.

Paul: Okay, all right guys, you’re welcome.

Quinn: We’ll talk to you next week.

Cantara: 1-800-LAW-1010, 1800law1010.com. Paul Harding, from Martin Harding & Mazotti.