This Just Shouldn't Happen

I saw this story originally over at and wanted to make a few comments on the incident before it was lost in the headlines of how Lindsay Lohan spent her weekend.

Last Sunday, two Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers were videotaped during a physical confrontation with a paramedic in the rural community of Boley, OK (having lived in Oklahoma for a number of years, I have to confess that I even have no idea where that town is).

One of the troopers had stopped the ambulance which was actively transporting a female patient (non-emergency) to a hospital in another nearby community. From the reports, the trooper made the action after the ambulance had failed to yield to his vehicle’s emergency equipment--as OHP units were racing to assist county deputies involved in a hot call.

The media story is here.

The EMT’s report of the incident is here.

This is the video of the confrontation as was filmed by a family member of the woman being transported:

Note: As usual with my commentary, I was not there and do not know all the details. As a result, I will try to make specific comments and relate them to professional practices in an unbiased manner.

 The argument over what happened prior to the videoed struggle (whether the EMT attacked the officer first) should be settled rather quickly by investigators and prosecutors as the OHP car’s video camera should have been running during the incident’s entirety.

Further, the positioning of the OHP car and the fact that the confrontation occurred at the back of the ambulance, would also allow for a full view of what happened from the second camera.

 Pulling over an ambulance during a patient transport is something done only in exigent circumstances—non emergency or not. If an officer did not know that the ambulance had a patient at the time of the stop, once that information was ascertained, the issue is best resolved later-—allowing the ambulance to take the patient to the medical facility (again outside of exigent circumstances).

Previously, I blogged on a similar situation involving an officer who stopped a doctor as the physician responded to an emergency call at a hospital.

 Running emergency for police and having drivers not yield to you is frustrating but simply par for the course. You search just about any of the police officer blogs online and you will see one or more posts on each of their sites about this issue. Despite the negative emotions that these non-yielding drivers (for whatever reason) elicit, an officer still has to remain professional and not appear as someone being driven simply by anger.

 In a number of agencies' use of force policies, choke holds/arterial restraints are considered deadly force-—a technique to be used against a person to save the officer’s life or the life of another.

 Stopping and detaining a patient’s transport is a significant liability for the officer’s department.

 It would be reasonable for an EMT not to stop for police while in active transport of a patient. One paramedic advised that he would contact the officer’s dispatch inform him/her of the hospital they were in route to and have supervisors of both agencies meet them there.

 In this matter, there seems to be plenty of witnesses. From the EMTs report, the trooper making the stop even had a female passenger with him.

The EMT's incident report (linked above) is descriptive. If just half of the information in the all of the reports is accurate, and the incident included obscene gestures, unprofessional radio transmissions, and wrestling matches in which no charges are filed, the only clear losers here are the emergency response agencies in Oklahoma (the police and paramedics).

The incident will cause a significant loss of public confidence—support that personnel from these two agencies desperately need to perform at the highest level of success.

This is certainly an unfortunate situation that should not happen.


fayezie said...

i respond to videos like these with the emotional, humanist response... whatever the professional protocol may be, my reaction is that the cops definitely took it too far....the look on the paramedics face when the cop had him by the throat, he truly looked scared. Faye doesn't like that.

fayezie said...

i have a question, and it's a little broader, but stems from watching the video, and some of the other videos you see from time to time of police interactions with people they've pursued, or whatever else you call it, but where is the line between getting a situation under "control" and being verbally abusive or intimidating/threatening? I mean, i know that they've got to get some really dangerous people out there under control, but it seems like though the guy was physically resisting arrest, they were threatening him, and that's abuse if it were in any other setting/situation.... just curious.

Sandra G. said...

That's a tough video to watch as it certainly gives a bad perspective on the trooper.

That said, there is always more than one side to every story.

But still...common sense should prevail, and if there's an issue with another emergency vehicle, take it up after said emergency vehicle is done doing their own job.

I've run into other emergency vehicles several times as I was running code, sometimes with the other EV going code as well. We always give each other a wide berth. Again, it's common sense - we both have to be somewhere quickly, so work it out and get on with it.

I'll be following this story to see what happens - thanks for the link.

Slamdunk said...

Good question Faye.

I am not sure I can provide a good answer without a boring long post that involves too many legal terms, so let me say this: the line is crossed when force is used beyond that which is necessary to make the arrest--reasonable force would be the measurable term.

For me, it makes sense to think of the amount of force an officer can use to arrest someone in terms of a scale from the least to most. At the lowest end of the scale is the officer's presence--some folks will stop violating the law just simply because they see an officer.

On the opposite end of the scale, would be deadly force--anything that the officer employs that could result in loss of the subject's life.

Using the scale, authorities can examine if it is reasonable that, for instance, an arresting officer used seemingly harsh verbal commands and pain compliance techniques (such as twisting his/her wrist) on a subject placed under arrest who refuses and goes limp (likely yes).

They can also use the same strategy to evaluate an officer's actions as to reasonableness if the arresting officer struck a subject in the head with a baton after the subject cursed in public (likely not reasonable).

This is certainly not an exact science as the scale will vary by department based on laws and policies, but it does provide some framework in determining if the officers actions were reasonable.

Also, as Sandra said, there will be much more information available than we the public will see so it can be difficult calling shots in these situations.

Ok, sorry my answer was still too long..

Oz Girl said...

My human response to this video is that the troopers used unreasonable force for this given situation. It's unfortunate that, as you mentioned, regardless of how this is resolved, the public's confidence will be reduced. At least as far as the OK state troopers are concerned. Fershur.

mrs. fuzz said...


You're right. This just should'nt happen. To me, it almost seems like an ego thing for the cop. Very unfortunate. I can understand that they were probably shocked at the size of this guy when he stepped out. He was bigger than the two of them put together. I would be scared, but it just all seemed unnecessary.

angelcel said...

You're absolutely right - there are two sides to every story. The fact that the camera was rolling well before the police 'assault' took place, and hearing the agitation in the photographer's voice right from the start of the tape, does makes me think that something else had happened beforehand that we're not seeing.

Triple Nickel said...

Great post and great comments. Back in the 70's we always worked closely with other emergency services personnel. Something like this would be handled at the hospital after the transport. We would have had the dispatched contact the ambulance driver and find out what was going on prior to any other activiey.