Athens County Emergency Medical Service Chief Rick Callebs is working on creating a protocol for staff when working tense situations.
The Jan. 7 beating and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols, in Memphis, Tennessee, while in police custody, caused Commissioner Charlie Adkins to bring up the possible creation of the protocol during the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.
The meeting was held in the conference room on the courthouse annex second floor.
As of Monday, three Memphis Fire Department emergency medical workers, one a lieutenant, were fired in connection with the Nichols’ case. Two police officers were disciplined, while five were fired earlier in the month.
Adkins noted that as an assistant chief with the Richland Area Fire Department, he has had to step in when law enforcement officers interfered with EMS personnel’s ability to care for their patient.
“I rolled up on a wreck and it was head on. There was an agency there that had the young lady out of the car, administering the DWI test,” he said. “The wreck was bad. I mean it totaled the care and so we had EMS there and they were standing there watching
“I believed that at the time, the young lady should have been in a neck brace, on her back on a cot, going to the hospital, and the officer was giving the test,” Adkins said. “I finally walked up to the officer and said, ‘This young lady needs to be going to the hospital.’ I said, ‘She probably has neck injuries due to this wreck. I’m going to tell you right now, I’ll hold you responsible if you continue doing this.’”
The officer stopped what he was doing and allowed EMS to take the crash victim to the hospital for treatment.
Protocol says the fire departments are in control of the scene, law enforcement agencies are supposed to conduct investigations at the scene, while EMS works on patients, Callebs and Adkins said.
“We have to make sure our paramedics are allowed to do their job if they believe someone is hurt,” Adkins said. “… My concern is that people are intimidated sometimes. When law enforcement’s there, when we should be probably be taking care of a patient and not worrying about whether they can take a blood test. … So I’m kind of thinking we need to make sure there’s something that we can assure or educate EMS that ‘Here’s your responsibility.’”
Callebs noted that EMS has always had a good cooperative relationship with local law enforcement.
“My stance has always been, we’re in charge of the patient and that our responsibility is to take care of that person, to be their advocate,” he said. “If they’re intoxicated, if they’re high, whatever, injured in some way, we’re there to guide them to make the best decision they can for their own care.”
The agency does not have a written policy or protocol, but Callebs said he was willing to work on a draft for the commissioners to review.
New protocol for Athens County EMS into effect Feb. 14, so its employees will attend mandatory training classes soon. Callebs suggested including the guidance in the training.
Some discussion with the county’s fire chiefs may be helpful as well, Adkins said. While EMS shouldn’t try to take away the scene command, paramedics also have to be able to step in to protect their patient.
“Actually, we’re kind of reminding everybody what their role is,” Adkins said of the training.
In other matters, the commissioners signed another four-year agreement with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office for the agency to oversee with Athens County Dog Shelter.
Sheriff Rodney Smith said Dog Warden Ryan Gillette, who was at the meeting, and those working at the shelter have been doing a great job since the sheriff’s office took over the shelter’s operation from the commissioners in 2018.
“We have a little staff. ... To me, the biggest deal is everyone cares about the animals,” Smith said. “I think working this out has been a benefit to our community and the dogs. They’ve done a good job adopting dogs out and getting them out of bad situations, which is very important.”
“Since you’ve taken over the operation, it’s been much smoother,” said President Lenny Eliason to Smith and Gillette.
Also during the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a proclamation declaring Jan. 31, 2023, as Nancy Rue Day.
An avid golfer at the Athens Country Club, Rue was a member of the Women’s Golf Association. She participated in the women’s club championship 43 times and finished second court time.
The club’s trustees named the Championship Cup Trophy after her. Commissioner Charlie Adkins said Rue, a retired Ohio University librarian, is a “pretty special person.”
In other matters, commissioners approved two resolutions to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds for body cams for the sheriff’s office and for repairs for all the county-owned buildings. They also approved an agreement with Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action so the agency can oversee the distribution of the county’s ARPA funds. The county received about $12 million.
The Athens County Board of Commissioners will next meet at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 7 at the conference room on the second floor of the courthouse annex.
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