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Attack on firefighters prompts policy review

Fire chief has spoken with other agencies about their transportation policies, but none would have altered the outcome of Sunday’s events

WHITMAN COUNTY, Wash. — Department transportation policies are under review after a weekend altercation involving two firefighters and a mentally ill patient in Wash., according to TMC.

The firefighters were transporting a patient from Tri-State Memorial Hospital to the Eastern State Hospital psychiatric facility early Sunday morning when he became agitated, bit the driver and escaped, a sheriff’s report indicated.

The department “didn’t receive any information that would lead us to believe the patient would act like that,” Clarkston Fire Chief Steve Cooper said. “We treated him like any other patient, securing him to the bed with seat belts. When we picked him up at Tri-State, he wasn’t restrained, he was cooperative – he even slept for the first part of the trip.”

Since the incident, he has been checking with other agencies regarding their transportation policies.

Some of those policies reviewed thus far wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Sunday’s events, as they indicate physical restraints should only be used as a last resort.

“I don’t believe it’s appropriate to restrain every patient we see,” Chief Cooper said. “We have to be sure to protect the safety and rights of patients — but we also need to protect the safety of my responders. That’s the balance I’m looking for.”