By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Early this week, Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes, along with Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, called for legislation, which would increase penalties for assaults against Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics.
The initiative, titled “The Assaults Against Paramedics and EMTs Initiative,” would assign these assault cases to an assistant district attorney in the Investigations Bureau, who will review and prosecute the cases. “We aren’t going to tolerate sending our heroes into harm’s way; we’re not going to let them be targets,” District Attorney Hynes said during the announcement on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Assaults on emergency care professionals have been on the rise. According to a report provided to the Brooklyn DA’s office, 52 paramedics were seriously injured in 2011 and so far this year, 51 have reported assaults.
One case involved EMT Wayne Thomas, who was attacked in May of this year. Thomas was punched in the face while responding to an emergency call at 89 Christopher Ave. in Brownsville. The assailant, Dexter Malik Carter, assaulted Thomas because the EMTs were taking too long to help Carter’s mother who needed medical assistance. Carter was charged with assault, harassment, and menacing.
New York’s Penal Law makes assaulting an EMT professional while he/she is performing their duties a Class D Felony. “The problem is that the law has language that states [injury must be] serious or permanent. This language has not been favorable for public employees covered by this law in front of a grand jury,” said Israel Miranda, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Union-Local 2507.
The group said they were calling for new legislation to increase penalties for these assaults. “They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Commissioner Cassano said. “This behavior is inexcusable and will not be tolerated.”
Among those in attendance at the press conference was FDNY Paramedic Betty Higdon, who was assaulted on the job. Hidgon described how she was punched and strangled by someone in her ambulance. Although she was badly injured in the attack, it only was labeled a misdemeanor assault.
“I like to come to work to help people,” she said. “I just want the support to do this job safely – that’s why we must pass this bill.”