D.C. investigating cop's wait for ambulance

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Prince Georges County,Tommy Wells

The District has opened an internal review after authorities had to call for an ambulance from Prince George's County to take an injured D.C. police officer to the hospital because the city didn't have any of its own available.

"We will take a look at the entire incident," Deputy Mayor Paul Quander told The Washington Examiner early Wednesday. "We will investigate our response, the availability of the units and everything else."

The internal probe stems from a Tuesday night episode in which, authorities believe, a white Lexus struck an unidentified police officer on a motor scooter in Southeast D.C. before fleeing the scene.

Beyond ambulances
The District's fire department has been the target of criticism for more than its ambulances. In recent weeks, the department acknowledged another year of significant overtime payments -- one mechanic earned more than $97,000 in extra pay -- and faced criticism for publicly questioning whether three employees followed protocol when they appeared at an event with President Obama.

The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department responded quickly with two paramedics, but Quander acknowledged that the city's ambulances "were on other assignments or were otherwise unavailable."

Prince George's County ultimately sent an ambulance, which arrived on the scene 18 minutes after D.C. dispatchers learned of the episode, and took the officer to a hospital.

Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the officer was in stable condition Wednesday afternoon with multiple injuries.

Authorities have charged Kevin Burno, 24, of Southeast D.C., with felony assault on a police officer in connection with the incident. Two others were arrested on alcohol and obstruction of justice charges.

Alongside the criminal investigation, the District began its own review soon after the episode. A city official involved in the evaluation, who requested anonymity to discuss the probe, said authorities were focusing on why there were an "inordinate number of ambulances that were out of service."

The official said D.C. was looking into whether any ambulances had gone offline early "to coast to the end of their shift."

But the union that represents paramedics said D.C. was to blame for using an "antiquated" approach to staffing ambulances.

"This is simply a resource allocation issue," said union President Kenneth Lyons. "We have enough paramedics. It's how these paramedics are allocated."

The leader of the District's police union demanded accountability.

"There have to be consequences," Kristopher Baumann said. "This is a moment to show that they're serious about public safety."

Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, who chairs the council's public safety committee, said he had asked city officials for details of the incident.

"I'm extremely concerned," Wells said. "Did we have to wait for an ambulance that we shouldn't have had to wait for?"

The episode is the latest blemish for the District's ambulance service, which has long drawn condemnation.

The criticism was especially intense after journalist David Rosenbaum died in 2006 of injuries sustained during an assault.

Although the city's inspector general simultaneously blamed hospital personnel for shortcomings, he also found that the fire department "did not properly assess" Rosenbaum and that the response was delayed by six minutes because the ambulance driver got lost.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner