Due To Contradictory Goals, Police Officers Should Not Be Paramedics

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Detective Jeff Payne has gained quite a bit of notoriety for his unlawful arrest of Nurse Alex Wubbels. He has been placed on leave by the Salt Lake City Police Department. He has also lost his part time job as a paramedic for Gold Cross Ambulance, a private firm that provides 911 ambulance service to Salt Lake City. It is my opinion that he should have never been employed by both Gold Cross and SLCPD at the same time, even if he had a spotless record as a police officer and a medic.

A medic′s first duty is to his patients. A police officer′s first duty is to uphold the law. Both are honorable goals, but it can create a conflict of interest when the same person works in both law enforcement and EMS. Patients share very personal information with medics, including their medical history and the circumstances behind their current emergency. A medic cannot ever share this information with any non-healthcare worker, not even with the police. This is very important, because if patients thought they could go to jail for what they say to a medic, they might withhold lifesaving information.

What happens if one of the paramedics who responds to your car accident happens to be a police officer? Would you feel comfortable telling him what medications you have been taking? Are you going to be honest about the number of drinks you had? Or are you going to refuse treatment altogether and just try to walk home?

Some police departments do hire paramedics to serve on the SWAT team so they can rescue and treat patients in a scene that is considered too dangerous for civilian EMS. This doesn′t create the same conflict of interest; a wounded suspect treated by a SWAT paramedic would know that they are talking to a police officer and would know to keep their mouth shut. But a police officer who wears a civilian medical uniform has access to patient information that Facebook and the CIA could only dream about. If there is a need for medics to accompany a SWAT team, they either should be outside of the police chain of command, or they should be barred from civilian ambulance services.

Judging from the video that we all saw, Detective Payne doesn′t strike me as the type of cop who respects a patient′s right to privacy. Even if a cop/medic obeyed HIPAA rules and respected the Bill of Rights, it could still look suspicious if a suspect or patient were arrested by their coworkers. Police officers should strive to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing or a conflict of interest.

Normally, it would be commendable for a person to want to treat the sick and injured, but a patient′s right to privacy trumps a medic′s right to moonlight as a law enforcement officer. Any cop who wants to be a medic should turn in their badge, and concurrently, any medic who wants to be a police officer should hang up his stethoscope.

Robert is the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Allen County, Indiana. He has worked in the private security industry since before 9/11. His new novel, A Long Way From Tipperary, is now available on Amazon.

  • “What happens if one of the paramedics who responds to your car accident happens to be a police officer?”

    How would they know that? This writer sounds like they are just trying to be edgy for edginess’s sake.

  • Both goals are saving life.

  • As long as you can distinguish the two at work it’s fine. When you are a paramedic you put that hat on, when you’re a cop, put that hat on.

  • Raffaele Di Giorgio

    Might I suggest reading:
    Legal Considerations for Tactical Medical Responders: For Both Individuals and Agencies


  • Get the satanic legals out of here. The law GODS law says be prepared unto everygood work.

  • Paul

    Well Sir I can see that you obviously have no experience in either except for pencil based arm chair quarterbacking. I have been both for over 30 years and can attest that the properly trained and well informed of both law enforcement and emergency medicine will know when and where to apply their skill sets. I might suggest educating yourself on how many agencies are dual or tri certified and you don’t hear any conflict issues from that arrangement. Every situation is as individual as a sunrise, so to stereotype and emphasize that a person’s chosen profession is not matter of public discussion. The only dominant factor in this scenario is poor decision making on behalf of one person and he alone should be the subject of any scrutiny-not the professions!

  • Christina Curtiss

    Obviously sir, you are rather misinformed. Dual certification of LEs and medics is not only successful in many areas but free of conflicts as these men and women are fantastically trained. The problem with this incident is that this officer responded inappropriately. He was not working in a medical capacity or as a Medic that day. Gold Cross fired him due to the issues employing such a person would have on their business and patients. The officer’s actions appeared to be emotionally based and not based on training.
    Sir, you should do more research before selling such an opinion

  • Who were the first paramedics? this is the dumbest thing i’ve ever seen. Police would bring sick and injured to the ER Door long before there were paramedics.

  • Robert Enders, you have been smoking too much weed and are paranoid. have you done any investigation or all in your imagination? Its like walking and chewing gum. Some people can do it.

  • I am 71 y.o., a military veteran, never been arrested.

    (Former) Detective Payne does not appear to me any different than the police officers who for 50 years have been violating my rights. I have been “Terry stopped” so many times that I finally had to look up what that meant. It must have something to do with what I look like, because it does not happen to white guys who wear suits.

    If I was anything but the squeaky clean, law abiding citizen that I am, I would be in prison now, based on the degree of attention I seem to garner among police and the lengths they go to in trying to find a reason to bust me.

    Statistically it seems there MUST be “good” police, but they are either outnumbered or intimidated by the bad police that pay so much attention to people like me.

    • Dan

      How different it is for a young black man today compared to being a black man in the 60’s and even worse being sent to Vietnam; that’s gotta sting! But, surely you understand the circumstance of which you speak of has more to do with guilt by association rather than being actually guilty of the crime and who’s to blame for that? And yes you MFers do tend to all look alike especially to us white folk so get mad at your people for breaking the law ;not the police.
      I would bet each time the suspect the police were looking for was black and had nothing to do with racism.

      Statistically it seems there MUST be “good” police, but they are either outnumbered or intimidated by the bad police that pay so much attention to people like me.

      Yeah but no because most of those police today are in fact black just like you so tell me why are they paying so much attention to a 71 yr old black man?

  • Deserttrek

    I believe the cop had a sheet already and has anger and power issues

    this one incident shows he should never be allowed to work in the field again, nor should the losers who stood by and watched

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