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New Alabama Bill Would Punish First Responder Attackers

New Alabama Bill Would Punish First Responder Attackers

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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.

Similarly, in 2017, a FDNY emergency medical technician was killed when her “patient” hit her with a vehicle.

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.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.