City: 3 ambulances could've helped cop

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Three D.C. ambulances were "improperly out of service" earlier this month when Prince George's County authorities had to transport an injured D.C. police officer to the hospital because the city didn't have any units of its own available, an internal investigation has found.

"The three improperly out of service units all failed to properly follow protocol," Deputy Mayor Paul Quander wrote in a report that said seven unidentified employees are facing "appropriate personnel action."

The internal probe stemmed from a March 5 incident in which a Lexus allegedly struck Officer Sean Hickman, leaving him with serious injuries and waiting for 16 minutes for an ambulance.

The suspects
Three men have been charged in connection with the March 5 hit-and-run of Officer Sean Hickman. They are all being held without bond.

Quander's report took aim at three units sprinkled throughout eastern Washington.

Ambulance 15, Quander's review found, was at a firehouse four miles away when the incident took place. An employee who was involved told investigators he inadvertently closed a dispatch system computer and "did not realize" the ambulance had gone offline.

Quander was skeptical.

"The system is not automatically disengaged by closing the laptop," his report said. "A button must be pushed to disengage."

Medic 19, about three miles from Hickman, had been authorized to go out of service, but dispatchers instructed its crew to monitor its radio in case it was needed. The employees, the report found, did not.

Medic 27, which was less than two miles from the scene, was out of service because of equipment problems. Quander said the crew had not properly inspected the unit earlier in their shift, which led to "an interference with efficient operations."

And a captain who was helping supervise ambulance operations that night acknowledged that he did not know a police officer had been injured or that an ambulance from Maryland had been needed.

The captain, Quander's report said, "failed to properly monitor the units that day and improperly allowed the units to go out of service when transport units were low or not available."

Edward Smith, who leads the union that represents three of the involved employees, said he was disappointed by the probe, which he said wasn't thorough because his members were not formally interviewed.

"They're always blaming the rank and file," Smith said.

And the chairman of the city's police union demanded accountability from Quander and Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.

"It's great to take a hatchet to a couple of the lowest-level people you can find," Kristopher Baumann said. "But at the end of the day, Ellerbe and Quander were responsible for this. They need to step forward and accept some blame."

Quander said he does not want residents to lose faith in Ellerbe's agency.

"I would hate for people to view this as an indictment of the entire department," he said. "On this occasion, we had a few who did not follow the procedures."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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