Police Officer Frank Barbagiovanni, of the New Britain Police Department, had a heartbreaking and difficult response to a 911 call back in November, 2011. He tried in vain to save the life of a ten year old boy. Despite Barbagiovanni’s best efforts, the child died later at an area hospital. In the course of valiantly performing CPR, Barbagiovanni had the unpleasant situation of getting vomit into his mouth. Since public health experts have long advised of the transmission of disease via bodily fluids, the officer prudently consulted with New Britain city officials to determine if he would be covered under workers compensation if he experienced any ill effects from his efforts to save this child.
In perhaps the most stunningly ill-advised risk management decision which I have ever heard, city officials told Barbagiovanni that, and this is a direct quote from the city, “the incident was not casually related to a work-related condition and that the city of New Britain would contest any workers compensation claim if Barbagiovanni applied for it.” Seriously? I mean….SERIOUSLY?
If trying to save the life of a child is not part of the duty of a police officer, what is? Was it part of the duties of a police officer for each cop who died in 9/11 to run into the Twin Towers to try to save the doomed? If it isn’t a police officer’s duty to save lives as a first responder, why does every police department train officers in CPR? Why bother? Save the training dollars and train officers to shoot prone so they can save themselves instead?
All of these shameful machinations by the City of New Britain stem from one issue: risk management to save money. The City will not back up its officer in trying to save a life. I think this is an incredibly short-sighted perspective. The city may save a few dollars on this. However, the cost to the reputation of New Britain as this story emerges nationally is quite significant. The cost to officer morale is incalculable. However, both of these expenses are tiny compared to the cost of a lawsuit when the first officer refuses to perform CPR, a citizen dies, and the City is successfully sued for millions.
Since this story emerged in the Connecticut media, New Britain city officials are back peddling, realizing themselves how ridiculous their rejection of Barbagiovanni’s workers compensation filing was. However, the fact remains that they did reject it in writing, whatever they are now saying while under the uncomfortable media spotlight. If their decision does change, it will only be because of the pressure of public opinion and a free press, not because their collective thinking is clear. In the meantime, Barbagiovanni did everything he was supposed to; responded to a call appropriately, filed a workers comp claim on time, and was told he was ineligible.
All of us worry about the stress that police officers experience which we believe are part of the nature of the job. Lately, I’m wondering how much of the stress is coming from ridiculous management decisions which seem so contorted that even a second grader would determine them to be ridiculous. How much of job-related stress results from patrol officers feeling that their duties are not appreciated and, in fact, hampered by the decisions of senior police administrators and city officials?
And in New Britain, Connecticut, how will police conduct themselves next time if they are first responders for a citizen who needs CPR? How would the rocket scientist risk manager who made this decision feel if Officer Barbogiovanni had responded to rescue HIS or HER ten year old child? Would attempting CPR be a substantial part of his job then?
That’s what I think. I welcome your opintions.
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