Sgt. Jim Parker is my new idol

Actress Daniele Watts was detained along with her boyfriend Brian Lucas for refusing to identify herself after someone called 911 to report “two people having sex in a car” a couple of weeks ago. By now, pretty much everyone knows that she then pulled not just the race card, but also the fame card, on LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker, and generally behaved like a spoiled child, ranting and raving in a way all too familiar to any emergency service personnel, unnecessarily prolonging what would have been a 2-minute contact 12 times over and ruining the sergeant’s original plan to get some coffee.

Lucas, on the other hand, appeared very chill and basically ended the cops’ interest in him by being, let’s just say, uninteresting and, therefore, unsuspicious.

I actually listened – and cringed – to the entire 24-minute audio clip of the LAPD response. I don’t have much personal interest in this whole kerfuffle, but I do realize one thing: I do not have anywhere near the unbelievable patience that Sgt. Parker has, and it’s a good thing I’m not a cop. I even recognize in his voice that very unique blend of restraint, bemusement, fatherly indulgence, sarcasm, passive-aggression and resignation that only other emergency responders can understand.

Since this happened so soon after the Oakland, California incident, it really has not been a good month for embellishing your racial profiling claims. I get it – no one likes cops, but claiming a bunch of stuff that is practically the opposite of what is recorded generally isn’t such a good idea.

After the usual did-she-or-did-she-not-have-to-show-identification in the media, this being America, a country where something as simple as identifying yourself to law enforcement during questioning routinely becomes as complicated as humanly possible, the legal people still can’t agree on anything.

Meanwhile, in typical chickenshit management mode, the LAPD is investigating the incident even though no one, as of this writing, has filed a formal complaint.

It is endlessly funny to me that, as a law-abiding member of society with things to do, someone would actually rather be detained for 24 minutes than 2 just to be a martyr. A bit like the way someone would rather sit in line in the cash lanes of a toll road than zip through electronic toll collection just because s/he doesn’t “want the gubmint to know where” s/he’s going.

Finally, in an amazingly unusual move, local civil rights leaders totally sided with the cops and asked Watts to apologize, and, in a totally expected move, Watts refused.

Chest Cam 1, Race Card 0

An Oakland, California firefighter claimed that a police officer in the same city racially profiled him and his children while detaining them at a fire station.

Keith Jones, who works at the fire station and was off duty at the time, saw the apparatus bay door up and went to secure it. Just moments later, cops arrived as requested by the fire crew, who had earlier left on a call, to check to see if they did indeed leave the door open. So, Jones, who is black, then makes his sensational claim that one white cop was way out of line, mistreating him and his children, “ready to pull his gun.”

Except, he wasn’t.

The cop could not have been more professional.

I’m going to stop just short of calling anyone a liar. Let’s just say we haven’t heard from Jones since.

Nut in charge of nuts

Code 3 for suicidal subject. It’s 3am.

We arrive at the residential psychiatric program. Same place as the other night, but different staff. Obviously the B-team.

“She left already.”

“Huh?”

“We put her on a psych hold and called for a private ambulance.”

“So why are we here?”

“She was tired of waiting and called 911.”

“Let me guess – it probably took no more than an hour.”

“Less.”

“So it’s like people calling 911 from the ER waiting room.”

<Silence>

“And you did nothing to stop her from calling 911.”

“They have their own cell phones and we can’t really take them away.”

“You do realize how stupid this sounds right now, no?”

“We’re not supposed to handle their private property.”

“You really think that’s a super-critical policy that you should totally follow without question?”

<Blank stare>

“And once the ambulance came and left, you didn’t think it’d be a good idea to call 911 back and cancel us?”

“Sorry.”

I’ve noticed that the nut houses tend to be staffed by other nuts.

As I’ve said before, with all due sympathy to psychiatric problems, as far as EMERGENCY medical services are concerned, fuck psych calls and psych facilities. All of them. As much as we don’t know about suicide and why so many seemingly fortunate people quietly and unexpectedly choose suicide, I know one thing – all these attention-seeking “I wanna kill myself” calls can be handled by a pat-down and a van with child locks. Sending a 911 ambulance for these calls is like burning down your house because you saw a hairy spider. Anything less than an actual self-harm call with an actual injury or overdose or whatever, we should not be responding to them. Period.

His knee hurts too

Code 2 for not feeling good. At a street corner. Late at night.

We don’t see anyone on the corner, or any of the other 3 corners.

“Alright, I guess just come around the block, take another look, and call it good.”

We nearly get a full block away when some guy on a front porch waves at us.

“Shit, it’s the goof house.”

Of course. It’s a nut at the nut house. Who can’t even get the location right. He was the one who called. He’s in his mid-20s.

“What’s up?”

“I don’t feel good.”

“Uh huh.”

“I’m shaky.”

“OK. I don’t see you shaking.”

“I have a headache.”

“So do I, thanks to you.”

“I feel like I’m going to die.”

“I’m going to tell you right now that you are not going to die.”

“But I’m scared that I’m dying.”

“You ain’t dying.”

“I’m sad.”

“You want to hurt yourself?”

“No.”

“Mm hmm.”

“How long have you been sad?”

“A month.”

“Oh dear lord.”

A staff member comes out.

“I didn’t even know he called you.”

“He wants to go to the hospital.”

“He has that right.”

“Yeah, but is it appropriate?”

“No.”

It’s stunning that this staff person actually said no. She’s over-qualified for this position.

“He said he doesn’t feel good. For a month.”

“First I’ve heard of it. The doctor and the psychiatrist come every other day.”

“So we can leave him here with you?”

“Yes.”

“Alright dude, go back to bed.”

“You’re supposed to be the ambulance!”

“And you’re supposed to be staying here with these nice folks and following their directions and not sneaking out of the house and calling 911 for no reason.”

“But my knee hurts!”

“OK, man, now you’re getting into the nonsense territory. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’re just making stuff up at this point. No one at the ER is going to actually do anything for you. Let me go further and go out on a limb here and tell you that I’m certain they don’t want to see you. And not to mention how unhappy they will be with both you and me, not that I care much how they feel about me. But you, my friend, you don’t want them to be unhappy with you. My suggestion is you get a good night’s sleep and listen to these people here.”

No one called us back from that address for the rest of the night.

Part of the job

Code 3 for intoxicated subject.

The cops have a very dirty young man sitting on the curb, handcuffed. He is drunk, and he is being a total asshat. He keeps asking why he is being detained. For a moment, he looked homeless.

“This guy was sitting in front of a stranger’s apartment, completely naked, covered in shit. We somehow got him to put his clothes back on.”

Two of the 3 cops are not wearing gloves.

You guys actually touched him? My god.”

He is probably not homeless. He looks like just another college student who didn’t know when to stop. It’s just that the poo caked all over his feet and hands are kind of dried up in the way we only see in homeless people and neglected old people.

It is so gross that we actually bag his hands and feet.

“I’m sorry,” I offer my partner.

“It’s part of the job,” he maturely replies.

Then it hit me. IT IS SO NOT PART OF THE JOB! And it absolutely does not have to be. How is it that people’s unbelievably bad behavior is just par for the course? When did it become just another day when some asshole spits blood in our direction? Why have I not ever ended up pressing charges against combative drugged-up scumbags we are forced to fight when they get squirrely?

Just complain and don’t do anything

I read a couple of items about anti-frequent flyer programs and community paramedics the other day. Now, just like any other new idea, of course there is no shortage of resistance.

There was some discussion that centered on concern that the Fresno, California program would lead to some repeat caller who is legitimately sick with serious chronic conditions (like repeat episodes of hypoglycemia or COPD exacerbation) being denied care or transport. I don’t buy that at all. I may sound all grumpy and dismissive on this blog, but I can tell you even the most cynical medic doesn’t think 911 abuse when s/he finds an actual sick person. Even if it’s the same person. Besides, Fresno blacklisted only 8 people in 3 years. Sounds pretty careful and judicious to me.

Now let’s look at the California Nurses Association. They – surprise, surprise – oppose community paramedics, claiming safety concerns because paramedics are too stupid to do it and people are going to be dying left and right as a result. Listen, California Nurses Association, I have met many of your folks, and while most are competent RNs, many are forever complaining about why paramedics are bringing patients to the ED and generally failing to display any sort of sense. The irony is fucking delicious that you oppose the concept of trying to reduce 911 calls and ED visits. Like any profession, you have your share of idiots too, especially in such non-ED settings as Not My Patient Skilled Nursing Facilities and everyday clinics (and this McDonald’s). That’s not even including all your visiting and hospice and advice and school and jail and dialysis nurses who call us for the absolute dumbest fucking bullshit.

And what have YOU done all these years to reduce repeat 911 callers and repeat ED visits other than give people such shitty discharge instructions as “call 911 if you don’t instantly feel better” and “come back when you need your band-aid changed”?

You call, we haul. Now get in the friggin' ambulance.

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