Start an Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.
By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Violence against first responders is not a new thing. The unfortunate reality is that first responders are often targeted by criminals or encounter violent attackers when they respond to a 911 call.
In a recent article on his website, Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan explained that the MS-13 criminal gang targets police officers. Unfortunately, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are also targets.
In 2013, for example, four firefighters were held hostage by their “patient.” The attacker dialed 911 stating he had chest pains, but took the firefighters hostage the moment they entered his home.
More Assault Prevention Training Needed to Protect First Responders from Violent Attackers
Many people argue that more training is needed to prevent assaults from taking place. But despite scene safety training, it is not always clear when a first responder has entered a scene that is anything but safe. Although there are numerous policy deterrents throughout the country, violence remains one of the most serious issues that first responders face during a 911 call.
Some departments are working to arm first responders. However, there are numerous arguments that highlight the policy constraints that arming first responders would create.
Alabama Answers First Responder Violence Problem with New Bill
In New York, assaulting a first responder became a felony in 2015. Now, Alabama looks likely to follow New York’s example.
Recently, the state legislature in Alabama proposed a state bill that could "make murder of a first responder a capital offense.” Alabama House Bill 59 specifies numerous instances where an individual could face capital punishment. The murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or a correctional officer are already capital offenses in Alabama.
The bill continues to move through the Alabama state legislature. If it is passed, it could have a tremendous impact on assaults against first responders.
Conversely, this bill could become just another policy that doesn’t get to the root of the problem: to stop assaults against first responders altogether.
More Work Needs to Be Done to Protect First Responders from Violent Attackers
911 emergencies are often adrenaline-pumping experiences that have emotions running high for anyone involved. Assaults against first responders in these situations have terribly tragic consequences.
As a result, numerous states and localities have developed policies in an effort to deter these kinds of events. Hopefully, Alabama’s proposed bill will create another deterrent to prevent the murder of first responders from ever taking place.