Video posted with permission from the victim's family
Emergency Call 911
Tonight my family and I witnessed a vehicle that was in the last seconds of a wreck. I placed two calls to 911. The first call was placed at 3:57 AM to report the wreck.
The second at 4:02 AM to report that there was a man trapped inside the vehicle. During that second call, which lasted one minute and 24 seconds, the first Wharton County Sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene.
Obviously, time is bent by an emergency when someone is trapped inside a vehicle. It seemed very much like it took twenty minutes or longer for the police officer to arrive.
I set up the video camera to record the rescue attempt. There really would have been very little to post had it not been for one police deputy giving me the order to stay in one spot.
As a vlogger, I have all the rights associated with any other legitimate media. In short, as long as I am not interfering with the rescue or anything connected with it, I can record whatever I wish. According to federal law, as interpreted by numerous federal judges, I am covered by the First Amendment[i].
What we witnessed this morning was a waste of manpower and resources. With all the law enforcement and other personnel on the scene, not one person bothered to direct traffic even though both northbound lanes of traffic were blocked. What is normally a four-lane highway was reduced to two lanes.
The county deputies seemed to feel that merely blocking the northbound lanes with a car was adequate to control traffic.
You cannot hear it on the video due to traffic noise, but there was a great deal of joking and small talk going on while a man sat trapped inside his vehicle. This seemed unprofessional and callous.
After I put the video camera up, an off-duty deputy rolled up in his pickup truck. He and another deputy exchanged jokes about the incident. This exchange ended with the on-duty cop telling the off-duty cop he was going to arrest him for impersonating an officer. The off-duty deputy drove off at high speed while the deputies on the scene laughed.
The Wharton County Sheriff is elected to office. It would seem in a year with an upcoming election that all department personnel would attempt to put their best foot forward to improve the impression they make in the community.
We see often where the public has disdain for law enforcement. This often comes from situations like this where a little decorum could be used. Most people will go out of their way to comply with the wishes of someone else when the request comes politely.
I am very aware of the need for maintaining the dignity and privacy of others. Law enforcement officers, EMS, and fire department personnel (whether paid or volunteer) give up their expectation of privacy when they sign up.
We would not have posted video of the man, we do know his name. In fact, we actually were able to video the stretcher as it passed by and get a view of the victim on video.
In the case of volunteer organizations, the perception they create in the community very much affects their donations. Would someone really wish to donate to an organization when its members crack jokes within earshot of a victim? Should the general public think to donate to an organization that is supposed to put out fires when their members smoke cigarettes in the area of an accident where fuel has potentially been spilled?
I often say it takes a higher level of stupid to smoke while pumping fuel. How much higher level of stupid is involved in smoking at the scene of an automobile accident where fuel could have been spilled?
Regardless of whether or not the presence of fuel is detected, it is wise to treat all accident scenes as if fuel fires are a potential. Or did that change since the 1970s and 1980s when I was an EMT and volunteer fireman? Does fuel now pose less of a threat than it did back then?
To all law enforcement officers out there: The general public’s opinion of you is deteriorating. As this happens, your safety is put in jeopardy. It would be wise to keep public sentiment on your side. Remember, juries are made up from the general public. If you were put on trial, it is not likely that you would draw a jury of all brothers in blue.
Whenever you come face-to-face with the public, remember that your job and safety is dependent on the general public. Listen to their story as if you have never heard it before and not like you have heard it all before. You may feel like you have heard it all before, but the person telling you this has probably never told it before. Each person deserves to be heard.
You may feel like asserting your authority over a situation is a way to maintain order. In some circumstances, this is true. In most circumstances, what is needed is someone to listen and to respond politely and properly.
As more and more people feel less like law enforcement cares, crime will go up and violence against law enforcement will increase. It is just inevitable.
The only true professional on the scene was one Texas State Trooper. We did not catch his last name, but his first name was Michael. He came out of Bay City, Texas, to cover the accident.
[i] First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 98S. Ct. 1407, 55 L. Ed. 2d 707 (1978). As reported by http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Freedom+of+the+Press
Please e-mail us at: David E. McClendon, Sr.