Firefighter Handcuffed for Doing His Duty
California firefighter refuses officer's demand to move engine
But after a dozen years in the business, Chula Vista firefighter Jacob Gregoire just learned a new twist: being handcuffed. That's what happened to him the other night when he refused a highway patrolman's demand to move a fire engine while in the middle of trying to help victims of a crash, according to Gawker.
On Tuesday evening, a white Honda Civic went over a concrete guard rail on I-805 in Chula Vista, flipping into the oncoming fast lane and injuring two people, as the San Diego Union-Tribune and television station KFMB reported. Three fire department vehicles arrived on the scene, according to KFMB.
Sending fire engines to a crash is a standard emergency response. Not only are the firefighters available should a car burst into flame, but they are also trained and equipped to remove people from vehicles and work with EMTs and ambulance personnel.
The fire engines parked in the fast lane, with Gregoire's rig directly behind the car. According to what Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman told the Union-Tribune, it is standard practice for the Chula Vista fire department to park engines to keep traffic away from the accident and protect both victims and rescue personnel.
As KFMB reported, a CHP officer order firefighters to remove the three engines from the fast lane. Two did. Gregoire was checking the car for any possible additional victims and answered that he would have to check with his captain, according to the Union-Tribune. The CHP officer handcuffed Gregoire -- in front of KFMB's cameras.
"I know clearing the freeway is a priority for the CHP [California Highway Patrol]," Hanneman said. "Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our firefighters and patients."
"Hey, I just want to let you know that he is arresting me," Gregoire called out to fellow firefighters. "It's unbelievable that you have to do this," he said to the officer. "It's unbelievable that you guys have to treat us like this. We are on the road trying to help people."
The officer detained Gregoire in the back of a patrol car for several minutes, then released him without an arrest.
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According to KFMB, other CHP officers have previously threatened to arrest other firefighters for not moving their trucks out of traffic lanes while responding to accidents. CHP and Chula Vista fire department officials met yesterday to discuss the incident and released the following joint statement:
This is not the first time there has been a public dispute between police and firefighters. In 2008, a police officer had to pay $18,000 for having arrested a firefighter in 2003 under similar circumstances, according to LiveLeak.com.
Last night there was an unfortunate incident at the scene of a traffic collision on I-805, where both our agencies had responded. Both the CHP and the Chula Vista Fire Department share a common goal of protecting the public and providing the highest level of safety to responding emergency personnel, involved parties and other drivers at collision scenes.
Both of our agencies have the utmost respect for each other and our respective missions. This was an isolated incident and not representative of the manner in which our agencies normally work together toward our common goal.
This morning representatives from both agencies met to discuss the incident to improve communication and ensure the highest level of service is provided to the public. This incident will be a topic of future joint training sessions, in an ongoing effort to work more efficiently together.
San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com
Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman