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Flagler Sheriff Deputies Will Respond to Many Medical Calls in Policy Shift Triggered By Death

| January 24, 2013

Flagler County Sheriff's deputies will more routinely be present at medical emergency scenes. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies will more routinely be present at medical emergency scenes. (© FlaglerLive)

In the first significant and visible policy change of Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre’s new administration, deputies will be dispatched to any medical emergency call that may, in the dispatcher’s judgment, involve any criminal mischief or worse, as well as any medical calls where there may be doubt about the cause of the emergency, the sheriff’s office announced today.

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The change is a direct result of the hit-and-run death of Françoise Pécqueur in Palm Coast’s C-Section in November 2011, when medical and fire units were dispatched, but cops didn’t get to the scene until six hours after the incident. Pécqueur was struck by a PT Cruiser driven by Jamesine Fischer, the wife of Flagler County School Board member John Fischer. Jamesine goes on trial on a first-degree felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident, with a death, on March 25. The absence of sheriff’s deputies at the scene made the investigation of the case more difficult.

“Clearly that was part of the reasons why we looked at this policy, as one of the first policies,” Undersheriff Rick Staly said. “The sheriff has ordered a review or all the agency policies, and we’re looking at the most critical first.” Former sheriff Don Fleming had 1,300 pages of policies and directives, which the new administration found unwieldy. “We’re in the process of reviewing all of them from vehicle apprehension, use of force, down to how we dispatch, just down to how we collect evidence. But it’s going to take a while to review all of it,” Staly said. The agency is using state and national accreditation systems, including the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), as a guide in the review.

The policy change affecting medical calls will not cost the department more money, Staly, a former director of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s 911 center, said. There’s no hard cost because the deputies are already out there, the fuel is already being used, the fuel and so forth,” Staly said. “There’s soft cost, obviously.” He defined those as cases where the call is nothing more than a medical emergency, at which point the deputy at the scene will judge whether his or her presence there is necessary.

Undersheriff Rick Staly (© FlaglerLive)

Undersheriff Rick Staly (© FlaglerLive)

Inevitably in those cases, deputies will be drawn away from their patrol duties and could delay the response to a new emergency. But, Staly said, “the benefit of making sure that we protect crime scenes, that we render first aid, if we’re the first ones there, it’s more beneficial than taking the risk of having an unreported incident.” In cases where it’s clearly nothing more than a medical emergency, a deputy might still be dispatched if that deputy is in the immediate neighborhood of the call. “Maybe we’ll save a life as a result, and there’s no price tag to that,” Staly said.

The undersheriff noted that in his years in Orange County, a third of the medals of honor awarded went to deputies who arrived at fire scenes before firefighters, and went into burning buildings to retrieve people. The 911 dispatch center Staly oversaw in orange responded to some 650,000 calls annually (six times more than in Flagler County), and had 174 employees.

Flagler’s 911 dispatch center, located at the Emergency Operations Center in Bunnell, is staffed by about 20 employees of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, grouped in two sets of dispatchers—one for fire and rescue, one for deputies. They both have access to the same computer-aided dispatch terminals that enable them to make judgment calls. The policy change is significant, but not radical: sheriff’s deputies are routinely present at major emergencies, and are often the first on scene at auto wrecks or fires. But they are not necessarily, explicitly dispatched to those scenes–as they might be under the new policy. Rather, they rush there as part of their patrolling duties.

The new policy is modeled after one in Arvada, Colo., a city of 106,000 people in central Colorado. “I looked at a number of other policies,” Staly said. “What I liked about the model policy from Arvada is that it was all-encompassing. It looked at what the 911 caller was saying, based on the experience and training of the 911 operator, and it was flexible enough that it would work for our agency.”

Still, don’t expect to see a deputy for a mere sprained ankle or even more dire emergencies that are clearly, exclusively medical—a heart attack, a stroke, a diabetic shock. But a substantial number of calls are for precisely the sort of emergency that unfolded that November evening, when Francoise Pécqueur was struck and died of her injuries: what was initially reported as a “falls accident”—a fall. The dispatch center fields dozens of such calls a day.

The change in policy will affect responses in the county and in Palm Coast—which contracts with the sheriff’s office for policing—but not in Flagler Beach and Bunnell, which have their own police departments. Flagler Beach, however, has a similar approach in place to the one the sheriff’s office is adopting.

“It depends on the situation,” Sgt. Frank Parrish of the Flagler Beach Police Department said, “but nine  times out of 10, an officer goes, if nothing else, to assist. We’ve done that all along. Now, I’m not going to say every time, because sometimes our officers are busy.” But head injuries, falls, “any kind of injury that would indicate something other than a basic illness,” then an officers is dispatched, Parrish said. Flagler Beach at full power has 12 road officers, two or three of whom are on duty on any typical shift. Bunnell Police Chief Jeff Hoffman could not immediately be reached.

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14 Responses for “Flagler Sheriff Deputies Will Respond to Many Medical Calls in Policy Shift Triggered By Death”

  1. Pamala Zill says:

    This policy shift is probably a good idea. However, the dispatcher, IS NOT A TRAINED OFFICER,OR DEPUTY. …So, I would like to know what basis is there for relying solely on a dispatcher’s. Judgement. ? What are credibtheir qualifications and what should those qualifications be? People, you must request to speak with on Officer if you feel it is necessary. This is a policy change as well but, noonee realizes it or the ramifications

  2. tulip says:

    I do not think that the dispatchers should have the responsibility of deciding whether a deputy is needed or not. They are there to take 911 calls and be helpful as possible to the caller and NOT to have to be in the position of “should or should I not” have a deputy sent–this is up to the sheriff’s office.

  3. confidential says:

    Great policy change! Thank you Sheriff Manfre and Under Sheriff Staly.
    I have total confidence that with your experience the dispatchers will receive the proper training required by this new policy. This new policy could mean the difference between life and death of a citizen likewise the case of Mrs Pequeur.

    • Girl says:

      Confidental – Funny – this policy was the one Manfre put in place when in was in in 2000 – now he changing his own policy – good idea right…..

  4. its all bull says:

    Really, why must politics always bring up the priors faults. You are the Sheriff and work for the people. You fix the issues and move forward! No need to waste tax dollars strring up un-needed publicity.

    • FL informed voter says:

      I personally think its a good idea to have the media informing people about policy changes affecting us. How else would we know any changes were made, whether positive or negative? This is the age of information. It’s the only way those of us not working directly for the agency would know.

    • Girl says:

      it all but says – Sounds like its the old Bush fault – going to hear this alot I feel… your right he loves his name in the paper…. buckle up we are in for a bumpy ride

  5. m&m says:

    You will have to include Dunkin Donut on the call list.

  6. Just diggin says:

    It’s always easy to go back and say…what you should or shouldn’t have done..heck anyone can do that! TRY looking ahead and not behind..come up with your OWN ideas not undermind someone elses.
    When you follow protocol, you are right. CASE CLOSED…

  7. RNYPD says:

    so what changed?

  8. glad fly says:

    the most bizarre stuff happens in this town/county. it’s got to be something in the water.

  9. Flaglerresident says:

    I do not see this as a totally bad idea at all, actually a good one for many reasons. First, in a medical emergency some families can be emotional and excited because their loved ones are injured or sick, so with their presence there, they can be used to calm or control the family while the ems workers do what they need to do, take care of the patient. Secondly, they can then ensure the evidence is persevered as stated in the above article, and then there is not a 6 hour lag time in investigating the alleged crime.

    Now to the incident in the “C” section, rarely does someone fall from a standing position and render an injury life threatening without having significant medical history and not having an underlying medical condition that caused the fall. Medical professionals are taught to think of a differential diagnosis if things are not checking out, clearly they did not fit the bill for a fall from a standing position. Then you have someone next to a roadway unresponsive, well, the immediate thought would be “could a car have hit this patient?” Always error on the side of the worst, especially when symptoms warrant such, and this way the patient gets to a trauma center instead of a clinic immediate care center for sprains and strains.

    A detailed physical exam would have revealed some type of trauma to indicate injuries inconsistent with a fall from a standing position. Secondly, the windshield was broken, there would have been glass shards in her hair/skull, and would have been seen if the ems crew inspected such with a rapid trauma assessment or a detailed physical exam. There was hair in the glass in the photos in the news paper.

  10. deana carmen says:

    So let me get this straight…we like the fact that the new Sheriff is updating policies to make them safer for us and we like that he is transparent and let’s us know what is happening at the Sheriff’s Office BUT we don’t like the fact that he or the Undersheriff have their names in the paper? That just doesn’t make sense. I guess if we went by these guidelines tomorrow’s headlines would read “Someone at the Sheriff’s Office changed something to make it better, but we’re not going to tell you who or what they did.” Does the delivery of a positive change really matter. Stop with the politics already! Manfre is the Sheriff for the next 4 years…get over it ! Be happy that we will not have another incident where a crime goes undetected for hours!

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