This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 13, 2007 1:47 AM. The previous post in this blog was January clearance post. The next post in this blog is Fireman Randy on the human field goal. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tipping point

Bob Bedgood, the Portland Fire Bureau lieutenant who felt the need to start practicing place-kicks on the a*s of a confessed jerk who mouthed off to him while Bedgood and his crew answered a medical call downtown the other night, has been reassigned to a desk job after he was busted on a security video for doing the deed. The statement Bedgood gave to police was also pretty sleazy -- far from an honest description of what actually happened. And in light of his transgressions, captured on video, he's been busted down to "training."

Well deserved. You don't kick a guy when he's already being pinned down on the floor by two or three other people.

But now what? Hang Bedgood? Heck, no. How about he takes a hit in pay for a while (or makes an appropriate charitable contribution) and gets serious counseling for his issues? How about he apologizes to the guy he gratuitously kicked, and to the other people he sassed when he should have been looking the other way? Is it that hard to say "I was angry, I screwed up, I'm sorry"?

I have done stupider stuff than this. What you do is look at it; think about it; acknowledge the wrongness; think hard about changing the parts of you that lead you to places like this; try to make things whole with the people you hurt; and do what you can to make other people aware of how the same weakness could lead them astray.

More importantly, how about reminding the whole Fire Bureau of: its core mission; how difficult it is; how much the bureau is appreciated by the vast majority of the population; and how to stay cool when a group of, shall we say, irrational people from the fringes of society is coming at you from every which way? It wouldn't hurt for the Police Bureau to spend some time with a similar message, given what's been going on lately.

I'll never forget the day our daughter arrived, on an emergency basis, on the floor of our bathroom. The Portland firemen appearing at our front door a minute or so after her first breath were without a doubt the greatest gift that any government, anywhere, has ever given to me. I'm inclined to give firefighters a major benefit of the doubt.

So let's not hate, but let's use this incident to grow and improve. This could end up being a positive moment in the long run, if it's handled right. The "victim" seems like a reasonable enough guy. The city commissioner in charge of the bureau may not be up to the moment -- he rarely is -- but the mayor and Fireman Randy, two men in blue, are in a perfect position to do something good here. It's up to you, guys. And to Lieutenant Bedgood.

Comments (25)

to the other people he sassed

The guy he jabbed with his hand...that's more than "sassed," that's assault. Think I could do that to a police officer and not find myself face down on the ground, hands cuffed behind my back, under arrest? And charged with assaulting a police officer?

Maybe you're right, Jack, that there's a teachable moment here. I hope so. But it bothers me that the union head is already defending the guy --though I suppose that goes with the job-- as though kicking a guy when he's being held down is "defensive." As is shoving another civilian who has, apparently, done nothing. This seems less an "anger management" issue than a "bully management" issue.

I sympathize with employees called out in the middle of the night on calls like this, but the uniform doesn't make the man, it's how he treats other people that does, and this guy just really seems lacking in judgment.

Bedgood assaulted a citizen, plain & simple. He should be fired, period. Firefighters do not have the authority to detain or arrest someone - the cops do that. This victim's constitutional rights were violated by these "public servants", not just Bedgood, but that whole crew of "heroes". The vicitim will win a bundle from the City if he sues, and we all get to pay-out, yet again. The "City that works" fails again - miserably.

What's remarkable is how much this kind of abuse of authority has increased along with the prevalence of video cameras--starting, I suppose, with the Rodney King incident.

This is an very sober analysis about the events captured on video Thursday night--refreshing to read. We can only hope that something good comes from this--that would be refreshing too.

how much this kind of abuse of authority has increased along with the prevalence of video cameras

I think it's always been like this -- it's just that with the camera, you see it more. You really wonder what would have happened if the video had been rolling when Humphreys killed Chasse.

With these increasing incidents of abuse of power with
local law-enforcement and service personnel, maybe it
is time that we--as a community--undertake an in-depth
study as to what commonality links these men that are
reported as offending abusers.

Clearly there is issues of overreaction when "authority"
is challenged, and then violent response is meted out
before rational thought can disengage their hyper-rage.

What common factors link these men? Of course, there
is the obvious, but I'm talking about factors that aren't
thus far discussed much in public venues as this: are
there memberships in questionable organizations that is
shared, are they members of similar religion that is noted
for being intolerant to "challenges" of authority, are they
members in some health club that encourages misuse of
drugs (steroids for instance), or are they socially linked
in such manner that they reinforce each other's sense of
entitlement and groupthink?

Until we undertake a rigorous research into these men
and their individual backgrounds, we shall simply spin
our wheels every time an act insults the public, and it
obvious they'll get worst and more egregious till the
underlying causation factors are discovered and laid
bare for public scrutiny.

So, you wonderful researchers in the community, here
is a job for you...please take it on, for we know not
who is next amongst us to suffer at the hands of an
outraged "control freak" wearing a uniform.

Good post Jack. I said before that he should be fired, but now that I've cooled down a bit I agree that a loss of pay and remedial training is probably more appropriate. Bedgood was definately antagonized by the jerk. Firemen are a close knit group of people, and I can see where the group dynamics play out where they all want to jump in to take care of a perceived threat or danger. Bedgood obviously let his emotions get the better of him, and he shouldn't lose his career over isolated thing like this.

I can't disagree more. That clown is a self confessed jerk, the fire dept. has to deal with clowns like him every day, the frustration level goes ever higher, and the city leadership does squat. Just witness the transit mall. I say give the kicker steal toed boots!

Bedgood obviously let his emotions get the better of him, and he shouldn't lose his career over isolated thing like this.

If indeed it is isolated.

If he and his pals are on steroids, as some are suggesting here, they need to get off them, and the bureau needs to be sure that they do.

"I say give the kicker steal toed boots! (emphasis mine)

I say give R.J. a spelling lesson.

You mention the "core mission". I think something like 90% (yes, ninety) of responses by the fire bureau are now for medical emergencies -- or medical "emergencies", people calling 911 because they don't have access to health care and want help with a sore throat.

This may have little to do with the current issue, except many people don't know that firefighters respond to calls for medical help way more than fire-related calls. It's further proof that many parts of our system are broken, with the "core mission" of both fire and police bureaus now including mental and physical health care. And I think, further proof that all first-responders need more, ongoing, annual training in dealing with irrational people.

...further proof that all first-responders need more, ongoing, annual training in dealing with irrational people.

Sadly, apparently citizens also "...need more, ongoing, annual training in dealing with..." irrational people that work for the City of Portland.

A new City bureau. Just think of the employment opportunities!

Perhaps the AMR folks that were there should have taken care of this one. Why was the PFB still there after they (AMR) showed up? For all I know, the AMR people were there first. Why do we need to spend even more money on training firefighters to do what others in the private sector are already trained to do?

Maybe we should cut the PFB's responsibilities in the medical "emergencies" area, save some money on payroll (JOKE) and contract that part out.

Maybe Bedgood should be out kicking ashes instead of a**es.

Many times on very minor incidences, like an intoxicated citizens falling down on a city sidewalk, I have seen a PFD ladder truck, PFD medical truck, PFD staff car, and a PPD car show up for the incident. Rr and Amanda points are right on-the city needs to reaccess the role of PFD. Besides wasting taxpayer money, are the incidences being properly handled? Why not have the private sector handle the emergencies like many cities provide?

I shake my head every time I see the a ladder truck respond to a medical call.

That said, I'm sure they want to take it out on a regular basis to maintain their driving skills, but it's kind of like swatting a fly with an RPG. It

I assume they would send a smaller truck if one were available, which may indicate a need for deployment of another medical/fire truck downtown.

It just occurred to me that reassigning Bedgood to training might just be somewhat counterproductive, to say the least.

Kicking a guy while he's down training?

The fact is Lt. Bedgood will be temporarily assigned to administrative responsibilities in the Training Division. He will not be "training" anyone.

And to answer Mister Tee's question of, why a ladder truck goes to a first aid call? The EMS sysytem on Multnomah County sends the closest "First Responder" to a call for aid. Portland Fire is the First Responder on all Medical Aid calls in the County, AMR provides the transport of the patient to the hospital. Both agencies have paramedics and the assorted equipment and medications necessary to preform the procedures outlined by the Multnomah County EMS Protocols. Portland Fire currently staffs every engine and truck with 1 paramedic and 3 EMT basics.


waldo rests our case.

The picture of efficiency, that setup.

The concept of the first-responder is a great idea. Fire responsers are often much closer than AMR ambulances. If the emergency is time critical i.e. Heart attack, massive bleeding or breathing issues then seconds matter. Unfortunately most medical calls no matter how non-critical get the attention of a fire rig.
Hopefully you don't need help for your emergency when your local station is tending to a sprained ankle and waiting for ambulance transport.

When I see four PFB employees, two cops, and an ambulance/EMT pair standing above a conscious person who appears to having a mental health/addiction crisis, it sure looks like institutional overkill. With, or without, the ladder truck.

The simple fact is that not EVERY bump, scratch, or alcohol induced blackout requires a code 3 medical response from three departments.

Here's my cynical take on the status quo.

Many PFB firehouses respond to fewer than 1 structure fire per month, yet they are staffed 24/7 with very expensive equipment and more expensive labor. Wouldn't it provide for better community relations (and job security) if the fire department responded to EVERY medical call as if it were a heart attack? Despite the obvious overlap of medical training and equipment between the EMT's and the firemen, can you honestly tell me the majority of medical calls couldn't be adequate addressed by a single EMT/Ambulance?

In order to maintain response times, we may need to expand the number of EMTs/Ambulances around the city, but that is a separate question. It seems very likely that ambulance/EMT responses to the less critical medical calls would save the PFB (and all that heavy firefighting equipment) a lot of wear and tear on man and machine.

IMHO, we are depleating our firefighter's readiness and squandering their uptime availability by sending the cavalry everytime somebody old enough to dial 911 overreacts.

Perhaps the 911 operators have a triage protocol to lessen the response for the less critical medical calls. They certainly seem nonplussed anytime I call to report an apparent drunk driver or vehicle that is stalled on the freeway.

Certainly, in the 911 call which led to the McGeorge incident, it seems like a "bad headache" at 2:00 a.m. does not merit the full cavalry response that was deployed.

Mr. T seems to have a good understanding of the issues that every First responder agency across the nation grapples with.

Calls for medical aid are triaged by call takers at the 911 center through a matrix of questions asked of the caller. The callers answers to the questions determine the level of response from Portland Fire, Police, and AMR.

It would seem logical since 3/4 of our responses are EMS related that we would deploy a "Rescue" with only 2 firefighters on board (ie. Squad 51 of TV show Emergency)to provide a more efficient use of resources and still provide for more in-service companies to cover additional calls. 20 years ago PF&R had seven such Rescues covering the city every day. In those 20 years due to budget cuts we have gone from a total of 888 firefighters, to staffing of about 650 firefighters today. Of course our core misssion is firefighting and we've had to circle the wagons, and cut the resources that leave us in the best position to deal with the "low frequency high risk events".

There are many dynamics taking place simultaneously when a house fire occurs. Those dynamics dictate the tactics firefighters use. First and foremost is life safety, second property conservation, third environmental concerns. A long recognized standard thoughout the country is staffing each fire apparatus with 4 firefighters. Sadly many communities have opted to save money and staff with 3 firefighters. This has a direct impact on the #1 priority, life safety. The National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA)dictates that for every 2 firefighters that enter a hazardous environment there must be 2 firefighters outside ready to undertake a rescue of those firefighters inside, should it become necessary, the 2-in-2-out rule.

Staffing every fire engine or truck, with 4 firefighters allows PF&R to enter burning buildings to search for victims and provide a margin of safety for firefighters. If everyone understood what a hugh advantage having 4 firefighters per apparatus vs. 3, I doubt they would be willing to give it up. I agree that fires don't occur as frequently as serious medical events, but sadly these are the events where people lose their lives.

A recent report on a study by Tridata, actually recommended increased on-duty staffing for PF&R. The report is available online at www.portlandonline.com/fire , search key word, Tridata.

Keep in mind also that sever headaches can be caused by a stroke or an aneurysm, both of which are life threatening events.

Or a Bud or two, or sinuses, or drugs, or life in general. Waldo, are there statistics kept on which headaches are caused by what?

After the Chasse killing I started wondering if steroid testing should be mandatory for safety officers. I'm now wondering even more.

You're right Lee those things cause headaches too. Dispatchers and EMS systems all over the world struggle to send the right equipment and personnel to emergencies without sending too much. Its a problem that has had lots of solutions offered but none have solved it.

I certainly wouldn't want anyone to die of a truly life-threatening episode, just because he/she didn't say the correct words to the dispatcher.

I can't tell Lee if your last question was serious but I'll try to answer it any way. The Prehospital Care Reports are kept electronically and I suppose you could search them for key words, but with the HIPPA rules I doubt anyone except the Multnomah County or State Health Dept. would have that kind of access. Most Fire Departments, that keep electronic records, can search for the type code that was originally entered into the system, but that does not always reflect what the responders find when they arrived on scene.

Waldo, I was serious. I didn't mean to ask for the outcome of headaches for the whole world, but with Portland. I feel that accountablity, performance analysis information is essential to running our city. I don't think HIPPA rules would apply to atleast data on what a headache may have been caused by and the results-as long as patient information is not given. For example statistics are given by the government on flu, niroviruses, etc. all the time. What I am inquiring about, is the PFD proforming the best it can, and is there an overlap of services just in regards to a "headache incident" and similar types of 911 calls.

Lee, are we getting off the subject?

The statistics on patient outcome are not available to PF&R. That is something only the Hospitals would have, or possibly the Mult. Co. Health Dept. What is available is the PF&R's statistical summary http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=115990 . Not private info on patients only the breakdown of responses by PF&R.

By using the term "overlap", that suggests waste to me. I think the EMS system in Mult. Co. provides the absolute best possible care for the sick or injured. PF&R provides first responders and AMR (through contract with the county) provides ALS transport.

If by the term overlap you mean, "why do 2 paramedics from AMR and 1 paramedic and 3 EMT basics from PF&R respond to a headache?" The answer would be, because the question matrix at Dispatch says that is the correct response. Like I said before no one should die because they don't know which words key the matrix.

So if PF&R goes on some frivolous (overlap) runs, so-be-it. The point is, those people that need the Advanced Life Support care get it.

I've been on many "headache" calls and interspersed among them were people with a history of strokes, and people with a migraine so bad they were vomiting or hallucinating. The "overlap" didn't seem important at all in those cases.

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