Monday, May 26, 2014

National EMS Week

This past week was National EMS Week honoring all those who work in Emergency Medical Services. The Star of Life pictured here is the universal symbol for EMS. Created in 1977 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the six cross bars represent the six functions of EMS: Detection, Reporting, Response, On-Scene Care, Care in Transit, and Transit to Definitive Care.

EMS in the United States dates back to the Civil War when the Union Army developed a system to evacuate soldiers from the battlefield. After the war, cities and towns began forming rescue squads using the same principles devised by the Army. Horse-drawn ambulances, like the one pictured here, could be found in larger cities across the nation.

With the coming of the automobile, those vehicles gave way to electric (like the 1909 model pictured below) or gasoline powered ambulances (like the 1908 White Steamer pictured to the lower right). 

What didn't change was the ability of ambulance drivers to do anything more than transport the sick or injured to hospitals. These untrained men worked for hospitals, undertakers, fire departments, and even local gasoline service stations.
It wasn't until 1966, when the National Academy of Sciences--National Research Council released a report on accidental death and disability that criticized the lack of quality emergency care, that the national Highway Safety Act was passed in Congress. The law mandated improvements in the EMS system, and led in 1969 to the first formalized curriculum for educating EMS personnel. 

We've come a long way since the 1960s. Today states are divided into EMS regions with individual EMS systems operating on the distinctive needs of their areas. Illinois is divided into eleven regions. (See the regions' map shown on my 4/12/14 blog post.) Due to its size, Chicago is a region all by itself. Each region operates under the direction of one or more medical directors, doctors trained in emergency medicine. Each region has its own paramedic standing medical orders (SMOs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs). These medical orders can differ slightly from region to region. For example, some regions include IV Versed for seizures in their SMOs while other regions still rely on IV Valium. SMO decisions on drugs are generally made on the latest scientific research, but doctor preference also plays a part in the process.

To see how SMOs differ from region to region, check out the following websites:

EMS Region XI Chicago:

EMS Region IX - Northwest Community EMSS:

If you're writing a scene involving paramedics, Google your local state's EMS system for the region serving your area, then Google that region's SMOs. By reading the SMOs, you'll make sure you write it right.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Good Cop, Bad Cop, Writer Cop, Liar Cop

Those of you who have read my mysteries know that one of the ongoing characters in the "Rhodes to Murder" series is Chief of Police Jake Moeller. As top cop in the rural university town of Rhineburg, Illinois, Jake has played a major role in three of the five books and a minor role in a fourth book. FBI Agent Tom Evans and Detectives Dominic Gianni, Alberto Hidalgo, and Ray Donnelly of the Chicago Police Department are other law enforcement officials who have appeared in my stories. Of these five men, the first four are portrayed as firmly committed to the principles of law and order and the administration of justice in a fair and equal manner. 

Detective Ray Donnelly is the lone black sheep in the fold. Donnelly cuts corners when it comes to the truth; he doesn't mind using trickery to confuse witnesses or frame innocent people. He's a rogue cop, a bad apple, a man who uses his badge to act outside the law whenever it suits his purpose.

I've lived in Chicago all of my life. I've had friends, neighbors, and even one relative who were police officers, and as a nurse, I either worked with or observed a lot of on-duty city and suburban police. I've also had contact with CPD officers for personal reasons, once when I was the victim of a scam artist and once when my son was injured by a hit-and-run driver. 

I've met a lot of good cops, people I could respect. I've also met some bad cops, people like my fictional Det. Donnelly, who don't deserve respect.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Well, it has to do with a book co-authored by a father-son duo, the father being a retired Chicago police officer and the son being a current CPD officer. Released five months ago, the book purports to take an honest look at the daily life of a Chicago cop, with some chapters written by the father and some written by the son. A friend of mine recently gave me the book, and being between mysteries, I began to read it. 

(A brief disclosure is required before I go on: I won't name the book or the two authors in this post because I refuse to help publicize them. Read on and you'll see why.)

I was only a few chapters into it when, during lunch with a different friend, I happened to mention the book. That friend looked puzzled for a moment, then said the authors' names sounded familiar to her, but she couldn't recall why or where she'd heard of the two men. Later that day, though, she sent me an email listing a website URL. The URL led me to an NBC news report on a recent case tried at the Skokie courthouse. A video caught on a suburban police-cam accompanied the report. 

It seems that the son part of the author duo -- let's call him "J" for "Junior" -- was caught lying in court along with two other Chicago cops and two suburban Glenview cops. All five officers gave the exact same story, word-by-word, regarding a traffic stop and subsequent drug bust arrest. Unfortunately for them, the arrest was caught on a Glenview police car video camera and was produced as evidence by the defense. The video showed the arrest going down in an entirely different manner than what was reported by the five officers. The judge had no choice but to dismiss the charges due to perjury by the police. All five cops were subsequently relieved of duty. "J" was the highest ranking officer among them and may have been the brains behind the made-up story given in court. 

Because the father-son team had been a huge hometown media hit when the book was released -- interviews on TV and radio, appearances and book signings all over the city -- one news station did a little digging into Junior's CPD record. Turns out "J" isn't the shining hero he made himself out to be in the book. It seems he hired a fellow CPD officer in 2013 to renovate the kitchen of his summer home during off-duty hours, then refused to pay the officer, saying he would instead list the cop as being on-duty during the time he was working on the renovations. That way the city would pay for "J's" new kitchen while also paying the other policeman's salary. The other cop wouldn't go for it, though. He reported the event to his superiors (the case is "pending" according to the CPD) and he's suing "J" for the money owed him.

I doubt the CPD will do much about the renovation complaint. They've covered up much worse complaints in the past and aren't likely to change their stripes soon. Take, for instance, the other little affair "J" was mixed up in. 

Back in 2006, two Chicago narcotics unit officers went to their superiors to report witnessing a sergeant rob drug couriers at a public housing unit. When their report was swept under the table, the two honest cops took their story to the FBI in 2007. Assured confidentiality if they helped the FBI pursue the matter, the officers agreed to testify in court as to what they'd seen go down. 

But it's hard to keep a secret from the top echelon of the police department. The names of the two cops became public, and they were quickly treated to the worst kind of retaliation possible in the CPD. Called "rats" by their "brothers in blue", these highly decorated officers were told by Internal Affairs that "sometimes you have to turn a blind eye." They were ordered out of the narcotics unit, ostracized by their superiors and fellow officers, and reduced to working desk jobs at the police academy. The crooked sergeant and his equally crooked partner were indicted in 2012 on drug charges. They pleaded guilty to extorting money from cocaine and heroin dealers and received stiff jail sentences. That didn't stop the harassment and retaliation, so later in 2012 the two officers filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago and almost a dozen police officers of all ranks. The list included good old "J".

Official corruption is a way of life in Illinois with four former governors serving jail time either currently or in the past, and a fifth governor indicted on embezzlement charges but acquitted. (Several jurors on his case ended up getting state jobs soon after the trial ended.) In all, 1500 public officials in Illinois have been convicted on corruption charges since 1970. 

As for the Chicago Police Department, a 2013 study published by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Political Science states that "An analysis of five decades of news reports reveals that since 1960, a total of 295 Chicago Police officers have been convicted of serious crimes, such as drug dealing, beatings of civilians, destroying evidence, protecting mobsters, theft and murder. There have been 102 convictions of Chicago police since the beginning of 2000."

And those are only convictions. The numbers don't include cops who retired before they were caught. For an example of how long it can take to catch up with bad cops, take a look at Joseph Miedzianowski, a 22-year veteran of the CPD who ran the Chicago Gangs Unit while at the same time running his own drug gang. The first complaints against him surfaced in 1984, but it took until 2001 before he was finally convicted on drug conspiracy and racketeering charges.

Now, I'm not saying "J" is in the same league with Miedzianowski, but his willingness to lie in court, falsify work records, steal from the city, "turn a blind eye" when fellows cops do wrong, and retaliate when good cops report wrongdoing doesn't earn him a standing in the "good guy" category. As far as I'm concerned, he's betrayed his badge, and that makes me angry. Maybe his father was the real thing, but "J" is a disgrace to his profession.

What also makes me angry is that this guy is raking in money from all the readers he's bamboozled with his sob story chapters. How can anyone believe what he wrote? We've seen how good he is at making up stories in court. Since he doesn't seem to mind perjuring himself, two bits says he's made up half the stuff he put in that book. 

There are many good writers out there who try to portray cops in a good light in their books. Most of them will never get the media attention and free publicity enjoyed by this father-son team. 

It's sickening when a corrupt cop like "J" gets all the headlines.