February 2, 2011
Hatzolah volunteer confronted
A Beverly Hills Police officer pointed his gun at a Jewish emergency medical technician who was responding to a car crash on Olympic Boulevard on Jan. 20.
The EMT, a volunteer with the Hatzolah of Los Angeles Jewish emergency rescue team, was rushing to the scene of a two-car collision in his own car, which bore flashing, roof-mounted red-and-white lights and was blaring a siren.
The BHPD officer, who was not familiar with the volunteer ambulance group, did not know that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has authorized Hatzolah members to mount lights and sirens on their private cars for use when responding to emergencies. The officer followed the EMT in a police car, also running lights and sirens.
The Hatzolah EMT stopped only when he reached the scene of the crash, where he got out of his car. At that point, the Beverly Hills officer stepped out of his vehicle and pointed his gun at the EMT.
“It was a misunderstanding and a misjudgment by both parties,” said Ari Stark, Hatzolah of Los Angeles’ spokesman. The volunteer group has been responding to emergencies in three neighborhoods around the city since 2001, and because emergencies reported to Hatzolah on its private hotline are usually also reported to 911, Stark suggested that the Hatzolah volunteer may have assumed the BHPD officer was responding to the same emergency.
“If our individual did not see [the officer], and did not pull over willingly, then he was wrong, and we’ll stand by that,” Stark said. “But we don’t believe that [the volunteer] intentionally did that. We really believe that he was caught up in attending to the scene of his emergency with his lights and sirens going, very close to his location — and if he saw the police officer, [the volunteer assumed] he was going to the same place.”
A spokesman for BHPD declined to comment, saying an official complaint had been made against the officer, and an internal investigation initiated.
Stark was unaware of the complaint and said he believed the matter had been settled by the officers at the scene. In addition to the BHPD officer, at least five Hatzolah volunteers, the Los Angeles Police Department and CHP also reported to the scene. According to Stark, CHP determined that, in using the lights and sirens, the Hatzolah volunteer was acting within his rights.
“It hasn’t strained our relationship with [BHPD] at all,” Stark said. “They did their duty; we did ours.”