Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's the price of a uniformed temper tantrum?

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Martin, the infamous star of a viral Internet video that shows him pulling over an ambulance transporting a patient to the hospital and assaulting paramedic Maurice White, has been suspended without pay for five days and ordered to anger assessment. The relatively light penalty for an officer fired in the past over allegations of bullying comes after a period of public outrage, with a lawsuit pending.

Oklahoma Crime Examiner Patricia Phillips has followed this case from the beginning, and you can find details of the case in her columns. It's worth noting, though, that while Martin's suspension letter from the OHP goes out of its way to justify the traffic stop of an ambulance and to condemn White's conduct that day, it concedes some egregious conduct on the part of the officer.

The letter, from Commissioner Kevin L. Ward, points out that Trooper Martin was "twice advised that a patient was on board the ambulance and that the ambulance was headed to the hospital." Nevertheless, "in spite of the knowledge of the patient and the length of time of the stop, you made no inquiry of the patient or any other person regarding the status or welfare of the patient on board the ambulance."

Ward advises Martin that it would have been more appropriate to have allowed the ambulance to continue to the hospital and conclude the traffic stop there.

Ward also points out, diplomatically, that Martin seemed to be spoiling for a fight.

"On at least one occasion, you withdrew from the altercation, only to place yourself in a position for a subsequent altercation with Mr. White.

Finally, your manner when approaching Mr. Franks, the driver of the ambulance, was unnecessary and unprofessional. Your demeanor and language at the scene was also unprofessional."

Ward then cites the OHP Operations Manual to characterize Martin's behavior as "conduct unbecoming an officer" and quotes statutes allowing for Martin to be "discharged, suspended without pay for not to exceed sixty (60) calendar days or demoted..."

Ward then states, "your conduct and disregard for the welfare of the patient justify severe discipline." And that "severe discipline" turns out to be ... five days suspension without pay and an anger assessment?

Oh, please. "Anger assessment" is that greatest of meaningless institutional butt-coverings. It allows organizational higher-ups to tell the lawyers that they're doing something without actually doing something. It's nonsense.

What needs to be assessed in a police officer who was fired in 2000 as Chief of Police in Fairfax, Oklahoma, for violent and bullying behavior, and who then endangers a patient in an ambulance and picks a fight while in uniform?

Daniel Martin was out of line, acting like a cartoon cop outraged that somebody didn't "respect mah authoritah." While letting his bruised ego run wild, he behaved unprofessionally and, potentially, put a life at risk.

Five days without pay and a bit of psychobabble are an awfully light slap on the wrist for that sort of misconduct.



Blogger Rob said...

Five days without pay and a bit of psychobabble are an awfully light slap on the wrist for that sort of misconduct.

I agree wholeheartedly. Even if this was the first time for him, that's a ridiculously light "punishment" for such egregious behavior. Considering his background, Martin should be fired and facing charges for interfering with an emergency vehicle himself, along with assault and battery.

But seriously - did you really expect anything like that to happen in this day and age? I have nothing but contempt left for most cops. They have no honor, and apparently no shame.

July 23, 2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger akaGaGa said...

Did you really expect any different? Where there should be criminal charges, we have the old boys' network protecting their own.

Maybe something good will come out of the lawsuit.

July 23, 2009 6:18 PM  

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