Union helps reinstate Mo. FF-paramedic seen striking patient on surveillance video
IAFF Local 42 leaders said that other Kansas City FD employees had similar physical altercations with patients or residents and were not disciplined or terminated
By Glenn E. Rice
The Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City fire department paramedic was allowed to return to work weeks after he was fired for repeatedly striking a patient with a laptop computer in an incident that was captured on hospital surveillance cameras.
The assault happened on the evening of April 16, 2021, in the emergency room entrance at University Health Truman Medical Center, 2300 Holmes Road. The hospital was called Truman Medical Center at the time.
The Kansas City Star obtained surveillance footage from three different camera angles that shows fire medic Peter Hansen repeatedly striking an unidentified male patient moments after his KCFD ambulance arrived at the hospital. The patient appeared to come from inside the ambulance.
KCFD officials along with city officials terminated Hansen. But an arbitrator ruled that Hansen should be reinstated and his firing be changed to a one pay-period suspension because Hansen did not receive de-escalation and anger management training.
The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42, the union representing Kansas City firefighters, medics and emergency medical technicians, filed a grievance on Hansen’s behalf.
Union leaders said Hansen was singled out by officials and that other KCFD employees had similar physical altercations with patients or residents and were not disciplined or terminated. They also said the patient initially attacked Hansen, who defended himself.
But city and department officials reached a different conclusion.
“At KCFD, we are dedicated to upholding the trust and confidence of our community. When an incident arose that violated city policies, we took swift action by launching an internal investigation to determine the facts,” according to a statement from a KCFD spokesperson.
“Despite our best efforts, the federal arbitration process initiated by IAFF Local 42 resulted in the reinstatement of the employee involved,” the spokesperson said. “While we accepted this decision to maintain a positive working relationship with our union, our commitment to accountability and fairness remains unchanged.”
Dan Heizman, president of Local 42, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Hansen, who is now a firefighter, did not respond to text messages seeking comment.
The seven-minute surveillance video begins as a KCFD ambulance drives up to the entrance bay of the hospital emergency room. No audio accompanies the video.
Moments after arriving, Hansen walks around the back of the ambulance. He is carrying what appears to be a laptop. Hansen is followed by another unidentified KCFD employee and an unidentified patient.
Hansen is dressed in a dark blue KCFD T-shirt with the words “Win Some Lose Some” on the back surrounded by a department logo shield.
As the three men approach the emergency room door, Hansen and the patient appear to argue. The exchange becomes heated when the patient advances towards Hansen.
Hansen immediately pushes the patient in the chest with an extended right arm. The patient pushes back. Hansen counters by striking the patient twice with the laptop and a struggle ensues.
The video shows the patient cowers, bends over and turns to escape as Hansen advances towards him. Hansen chases the patient around the front of the ambulance, swinging the laptop, striking the patient on his head and body.
As the two men go out of camera view, Hansen continues to hold the laptop while pursuing the patient. The ambulance obstructs the rest of the altercation from the camera view.
Three armed hospital security guards are captured racing outside but inadvertently run past the commotion.
From a different camera view, Hansen is seen punching the patient in the head as the men tumble to the pavement.
Additional hospital security and medical workers then rush outside to break up the altercation.
Security guards place the patient on a hospital gurney with his arm in a restraint. He is taken inside the hospital, the video shows.
Hansen is seen examining his elbow to see if it was injured during the tussle.
The union said the patient had past interactions with the fire department.
Watching the assault unfold on video caused Kansas City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson to slowly shake her head.
“The footage is troubling and raises questions regarding de-escalation, training, discipline and accountability,” Robinson said. “The council must be committed to ensuring staff are adequately prepared to appropriately handle aggressive behavior and be held accountable to keeping residents healthy and safe.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas declined to comment about the incident.
Hansen was terminated Sept. 29, 2021, following a review by KCFD officials and a recommendation by then-Fire Chief Donna Lake.
The city’s human resources department upheld Lake’s recommendation. But Local 42 filed grievances as the city and fire officials examined the incident.
In their grievance, union leaders asserted that the city did not have just cause to terminate Hansen because he wasn’t given due process. They also said the city violated various procedural and substantive rights owed to Hansen as a tenured KCFD employee.
“In addition, the union believes that, for reasons unknown, Hansen has been singled out and treated differently than other similarly situated employees,” the union said.
But the city said Hansen violated the department’s zero tolerance “Act of Violence” policy because he intentionally struck the patient several times with the laptop.
The collective bargaining agreement between the city and Local 42 allows either side to hire an arbitrator in employment disputes.
The union hired Stephen Douglas Bonney as the arbitrator. The city did not object.
Bonney wrote at the time of the incident that Hansen had been with KCFD for 10 years but had a troublesome disciplinary record.
He said Hansen’s misconduct in the incident was “extremely serious.”
“Launching a violent physical attack on a patient is among the most serious offenses a paramedic could commit,” Bonney said. “The fact that the attack here occurred on duty and in public, thus expecting the city to (have) possible legal liability and adverse publicity, makes this incident even worse.”
But what helped Hansen was that Kansas City fire chiefs in the past had failed to discipline other employees who were involved in “similar or worse incidents of violent misconduct against members of the public,” Bonney said.
Terminating Hansen would amount to disparate treatment.
“The grievant should not conclude that he got away with anything. Hansen is very fortunate to return to the job he has held for 10 years,” Bonney said.