The latest skirmish in the ongoing police-fire wars occurred in Leadville, Colorado on March 27, 2010, where Fire Captain Daniel Dailey was arrested and charged with "obstruction of a governmental operation".
Captain Dailey of the City of Leadville Fire Department and two firefighters responded on an EMS run to the Lake County Sheriff's Office. When they arrived, county sheriffs refused to allow the crew to access to the patient, claiming they only called for an ambulance. According to the sheriff's office the deputies on duty were concerned that additional personnel might further upset the patient, a victim of domestic violence who had sustained neck injuries. "The deputy (Deputy Steve James)… was of the opinion that there were enough personnel on the scene and that the addition of the three firemen would serve no purpose other than to further upset the victim and her children." The fire crew was told "they were not needed."
Captain Dailey, an EMT, refused to leave the scene without seeing the patient. There appears to be some factual questions about who arrived first, the ambulance or the firefighters, and whether the firefighters self-dispatched themselves. Part of the problem appears to have stemmed from the fact that the sheriff's office only requested the ambulance to respond, while protocols call for both fire and the ambulance to respond.
Once the captain was arrested, the two firefighters were threatened with arrest if they did not leave. They left, but minutes later were called back to assist the ambulance crew. Meanwhile, the captain remained incarcerated for about 75 minutes before being released to City of Leadville Police Chief Mike Leake.
Underlying the confrontation and arrest, are some background details that help to put what occurred into perspective. Apparently, there has been an ongoing power struggle between the county and local government over a reorganization of fire and emergency medical services with the county sheriff wanting to establish public safety officers, and the local jurisdictions opposing such a move. There are also allegations that county dispatchers have delayed fire dispatches to allow sheriff's deputies time to arrive on scene first. Both allegations are denied by the County Sheriff.
Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott blasted the Lake County Sheriff's Office calling Dailey's arrest "a real abuse of police powers and an abuse of dispatch protocols that are being used as a political tool." Standing behind his firefighters, Elliott ordered Leadville police to accompany firefighters on runs to ensure they are not interfered with by county sheriffs.
Not to be missed in this entire episode in the issue of patient abandonment, and duty to render assistance. Can a police officer extinguish the duty to render assistance that a firefighter, EMT or paramedic would otherwise have? What do you think?