Assaulting a medic or other health care professionals could soon be a felony, as state legislators push for tougher penalties to protect first responders.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Tucker (D-Salem) and Sen. Michael Brady (D-Brockton) applies to EMTs, ambulance operators, ambulance attendants and health care providers and would change an assault charge from a misdemeanor to a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Testimony for the bill was presented before the judiciary on April 30 and included harrowing anecdotes from nurses, Brady said.
“I think in light of what’s happening … I think that this helps and this is important,” said Brady, referring to the stabbing of a Boston EMT on the job Wednesday.
Brady said penalties in those cases are not currently strong enough and he hopes the bill will deter others from assaulting health care professionals.
After speaking with constituents, Brady said he learned “there’s times when EMT operators have been spit on, been bitten, have gotten in fights where blood is drawn and there are some very serious issues.”
In the past, he said, people had a greater respect for public safety personnel but now, “it’s a different world we live in and it’s gotten much more violent.”
Tucker, a former Salem police chief, drew upon his experience with crime and public safety to sponsor the bill.
“An EMT is somebody that is out there trying to help people, they are out there on the front lines with police officers and firefighters and we need to make sure they are protected,” Tucker said.
The bill is currently in committee. Tucker said he will try to move it before the August recess.
“The message is the same across the board,” Tucker said. “We need to protect those that protect us.”