I often wonder at what impact the national news media has on law enforcement's policy development and evolution. Usually such wonderment is caused when I read about an incident that has been 1) greatly sensationalized, 2) causes deeply conflicting opinion, and 3) has the potential to change the direction of law enforcement. Just recently such an incident occurred. In this article we read about a Tennessee officer who arrested a man who was rushing his wife to the hospital. Normally that's not big news. What made it so controversial is that the officer charged the driver with seven felonies which is easily perceived as a bit excessive, and the public outrage that seems to be building against an enforcement action taken in the face of a medical emergency.
As a husband and father I can certainly sympathize with Eric Wright and his concerns about his wife, Aline. Aline, due to cancer, had lost her leg and was showing symptoms of having a stroke. Eric, whom the article identifies as "a trained emergency medic" (which could be anything from First Responder to Combat Medic to EMT to Paramedic) took her vitals and then decided to drive her to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance to come to their home. He claimed that waiting on an ambulance would have delayed her treatment 20 to 30 minutes, and as we all know from the plethora of television advertisements, if a person is having a stroke every second counts.
On the way to the hospital Eric Wright took it upon himself to use his emergency flashers and honk his horn so that he could proceed illegally through intersections where his light was red and (although this isn't reported, I have no doubt) exceed the posted speed limit. When Officer James Daves attempted to affect a traffic stop, Wright illegally ignored the officer's signal to stop thereby effectively fleeing from the police.
According to the article there was a confrontation at the ER door between Eric Wright and Officer Daves which did not stop Mr. Wright from getting his wife into the ER and getting timely treatment. As things worked out, his wife was NOT having a stroke.
As you consider this event, also remember back a few months ago when an professional football player was all over television and in the news because of a similar event. He had a family member with an emergency need for service and decided to ignore traffic laws, act as his own personal ambulance service, and transport a patient to the hospital. When the police tried to pull him over, he ignored them and the confrontation over his illegal actions occurred in the ER parking lot. There was, at the time, more public outcry about those horrible cold-hearted power-hungry cops who showed no compassion or mercy toward the man's plight.
Even if I accept the stress and pressure Mr. Wright felt as he determined his wife needed immediate medical care; even if I accept his judgment that waiting on an ambulance would have taken an unacceptable amount of time and would have delayed her treatment (which is highly doubtful since the EMTs could have treated her ON THE WAY); even if I accept that he was cautious as he drove with his flashers on using his horn to alert other drivers to his intent to violate traffic laws, I still have a problem with his failure to obey the traffic laws and to totally ignore the officer trying to stop him.
There is simply no way you can convince me that those few seconds lost at stop lights or the one or two minutes lost in obeying the officer's signal to stop would have made THAT much of a difference in Aline Wright's ultimate health. This is, of course, even more obvious in light of the fact that she wasn't having a stroke at all. "Wait," you say. "That's Monday morning quarterbacking. There's no way Wright or his wife could have known that at the time." You're absolutely right.
There's also no way that Officer Daves could have known that the vehicle committing those traffic violations, totally ignoring his signal to stop; the vehicle that was fleeing from him with an expired registration... there's no way Officer Daves would have known that the driver was transporting his wife due to a medical emergency and wasn't just another car thief running from the police.
Officer Daves MAY have lost control of his emotions at the ER door. Officer Daves MAY have been excessive in filing for seven felony charges against Wright. Those are possibilities. However - and I know the man is innocent until proven guilty, but even he admits his illegal actions - there is no doubt that Mr. Wright committed those traffic offenses. There's no doubt, according to his own statements, that he made a conscious decision, acting with full intent, to drive in violation of the law. I fail to understand then why he is surprised or feels persecuted when an officer of the law did his job?
I hope the internal affairs investigation clears Officer Daves. I hope Mr. Wright realizes that he is not enough man to do two jobs at once and can never do either one as effectively or efficiently as an ambulance CREW. I hope Mr. Wright also realizes that by making a conscious decision to violate the law and drive his wife to the hospital he put her life in even greater danger. There is absolutely no treatment he could have given her during that drive that he couldn't give her on the sofa at home while they waited for an ambulance to respond. If, in fact, they HAD been in an accident while on the way, Mr. Wright may well have been rendered unconscious and then no one would have had a clue about Mrs. Wright's potential stroke thereby making things even worse again.
Our law enforcement professionals are tasked with a job. That job is to enforce the law. We, as a society, need to be VERY careful how we second guess and sensationalize after the fact. With the charges dropped against Mr. Wright a message is sent to the public: It's okay to break the law if you have an excuse. The next step is simply to tell the police officers, "Never mind. Let them do what they want, legal or not." After that the next step is for politicians to realize that they're wasting money on the police because those same politicians would have created a situation where the police are powerless anyway. Can you say "Anarchy"?
Please share your thoughts in a coherent and adult fashion. Insults and name calling posts will be deleted.