i feel bad we called 911

last night phil and halle i and we were driving back from martinez around 1 a.m. we were traveling on the west bound 80 right before the san pablo dam exit, when the station wagon ahead of us suddenly wiggled a bit, then lost control, slid sideways across four or five lanes of freeway. he hit the guardrail with the car facing the wrong way down the highway, and the back end smacked into the railing with enough force to launch one metal section up the hill 20 yards and lift the vehicle up onto the posts.

we pulled over and i called 911, telling them i believed it was an injury accident. mike and phil helped the driver out of the car while i was talking to the highway patrol operator. he was shaken up, having trouble moving and probably in shock. he had just spent $200 to buy the car and was driving to highland hospital in oakland to be with his sick aunt.

fifteen minutes later, there was no sign of the highway patrol so i called 911 again. i reiterated that the driver might need medical attention, we believed he was in shock. they told me help was on the way. several other motorists pulled over to ask if we needed help.

when the CHP finally showed up 25 minutes later they seemed completely unconcerned about the driver’s well being. we started expressing our worries that he was in shock and needed to be looked at, and the cop held up her hand and cut us off. her partner questioned him about insurance (he had none) and examining him with an eye towards establishing a DUI (he did not appear to have been drinking). i did not hear him inquire once about his injuries.

the other cop took our statement, brusquely cutting us off several times, and then told us we could go. we wished the guy getting the third degree good luck and drove off, wondering whether we had done the right thing by calling 911.






4 responses to “i feel bad we called 911”

  1. b Avatar

    if you really feel bad, file a formal complaint with the department. name the officers, specifically. write a letter to their captain, and cc the mayor and everyone else.

    of course, don’t go back to Martinez after that.

  2. eric Avatar

    it was CHP.

  3. Ponch Avatar

    hmmmm… this sounds pretty unbelievable. I’m going to think out loud on your blog…

    Your account of the CHPs delayed response, lack of urgency, response and lack of concern, and indifference to “Good Samaritan” citizens is disturbing.

    I’ve never heard of a 911 responder taking 25 minutes to arrive without a good reason.

    Given the neighborhood you were passing, perhaps the CHP was already tied up with another event– maybe a shooting or murder or worse….

    It makes me wonder how urgent your phone call sounded to the 911 operator– was it a 911 or CHP operator? From a cell phone or a roadside phone? (By the way, do they have roadside phones anymore?)

    To consider a different perspective, based on what you wrote, perhaps the operator perceived that an accident in which the on-scene witness “believed” and judged that there “might” be an injury caused the operator to downgrade the importance of the call from being an Priority Urgent life-threatening 911 call to a Police Response Required because “a possible 1 a.m. drunk-driver-has-a solo-possible-injury-accident.” If the operator perceived there to be an imminent threat to life, then you’d think or hope or pray that an ambulance and/or the fire department would be the first on-scene responder.

    When you called 911 and said you were on the freeway, did the 911 operator patch you through to a CHP operator– given that the I-80 is in CHPs jurisdiction? If there was a handoff to CHP, perhaps the urgent tone of your voice was lost in the translation? Did you ask specifically for CHP help? Was the accident blocking the freeway or off on the shoulder? I suspect the car was on the shoulder, otherwise you’d think the CHP would be there within minutes to close down the lane to prevent injury to others.

    While you don’t mention the accident victims race, I wonder if that played any role in the on-scene CHP response. Could racial profiling be a cause for the type of response the victim had to endure?

    The CHP claims to have a well-defined procedure for investigating citizen concerns. Internal Affairs Section is responsible for coordinating such investigations. To voice a concern and/or file a complaint regarding Department policy or employee conduct you can do so at the CHP website.

    The California Highway Patrol Community Outreach and Marketing Unit (COMU) publicly say that the CHP Internal Affairs division “considers the investigation of complaints regarding an employee’s actions or our policies to be one of our most important missions. All complaints are investigated objectively and thoroughly, and the investigation findings are provided in writing to the complainant.”

    I say, “Do The Right Thing. Always.”

  4. eric Avatar

    hey ponch, yeah i was patched into CHP directly by 911. the operator answered “california highway patrol”. the driver’s race was african american, so yeah in my mind i wondered if that was playing a part in the officers’ behavior.

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