Battle Over EMS Response to Crime Scenes in Miss.

Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes wants AMR to respond to violent scenes even before police arrive.


JACKSON, Miss. --

There's a debate raging in Jackson about the role paramedics and emergency responders play in responding to a crime scene.

City Councilman Kenneth Stokes has threatened to reverse the contract American Medical Response has to serve in the area if the company doesn't send its workers into violent crime scenes, even before police arrive.

On any given night, police will respond to a crime scene and an AMR ambulance will be found nearby -- waiting for an all-clear to respond and provide medical attention. It is a practice and a policy that has irked some city of Jackson leaders who now argue that AMR shouldn't wait for anything.

Ken Walters is an AMR paramedic who said he's seen enough dangerous situations, just waiting to go into them in Jackson. He provided 16 WAPT News with an example.

Ward 3 City Councilman Kenneth Stokes

"We're just standing there. Two guys came up and robbed us at gunpoint and shot at us. One of the bullets hit right here," Walters said.

"Isn't there implied risk as an EMT that you are supposed to assume some forms of risk?" WAPT's Scott Simmons asked Walters.

"Yes, but not where your life is in danger, because we are there to provide aid, comfort and aid, and take someone to the hospital. You know, this isn't the military," Walters said.

Stokes has been the loudest critic. He said if AMR is going to take taxpayer money to provide service, that service should not come with restraints.

"If you are concerned about safety, put on a bullet proof vest," Stokes said. "I think the contract is what we're going to get because you can't sit up here in the capital city of Jackson, Miss. and say, 'We're going to let people die.'"

Stokes may have a problem with AMR, but there is little city leaders can do about its contract for service in this area. That is something the city of Jackson gave up to Hinds County in 1990.

AMR spokesman Jim Pollard defended the company's policy.

"We have letters from two national organizations," Pollard said.

Nowhere does it say that paramedics are supposed to go into crime scenes before police do, Pollard said.

"In the national standard material, it says very simply, regarding violent scenes, scenes should always been secured by law enforcement before EMTs provide patient care," Pollard said.

"We're there as part of the solution," Walters said. "We go in there and we get hurt, we get injured, then we become part of the problem."

Stokes said the argument is not over.

"I think we have got a fight. That is just round one of a heavyweight bout," Stokes said.

Walters and others at AMR are hoping they can continue the policy of letting police go into a violent crime scene before they do.

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