The tragedy of George Floyd has sparked a nationwide conversation on police brutality and our criminal justice system. But what happens when the police are not the only ones in the wrong? Recently, the state of Tennessee suspended two E.M.T.s for inaction in the death of a man named Jocques Clemmons. This blog post will provide a summary of the events that led to the suspension of the E.M.T.s and the ongoing investigation into the death of Mr. Clemmons.
Matthew Gibbs, a lawyer for the state’s Health Department, asked the emergency medical services board to hold a special meeting to suspend the E.M.T.s, ensuring they cannot work as E.M.T.s in the state. The suspension issued on Friday was temporary, and the board will hold a hearing over whether to issue a full suspension at a later time. Dennis Rowe, an ambulance service operator on the board said there was “every reason to believe” that the E.M.T.s’ inaction “may have contributed to the demise of that patient.”
Video footage from a police surveillance camera captured the beating and much of the emergency medical response. It showed that a handcuffed Mr. Clemmons, whom the police had punched, kicked and struck with a baton, repeatedly fell over while propped up against a police car. The E.M.T.s helped Mr. Clemmons sit up a few times, but then largely left him alone, not touching him for long periods of time and, at one point, walking away for about 30 seconds as Mr. Clemmons rolled around on the ground.
The Memphis fire chief, Gina Sweat, said in a statement on Monday that the police had called for emergency medical workers to respond to a “person pepper sprayed,” and that the E.M.T.s had arrived 10 minutes later. The E.M.T.s then called for an ambulance, which arrived 14 minutes after them, Chief Sweat said.
The board will consider a full suspension, but the E.M.T.s will be able to contest the findings and provide their version of events. Neither has yet spoken publicly. It is a tragedy that Mr. Clemmons’ life was taken too soon, and it is important to remember that all parties involved are responsible for their actions. The state of Tennessee is still investigating the events that led to Mr. Clemmons’ death, and the outcome of the investigation will be critical in determining the fate of the E.M.T.s involved.