Target 8- Police Won't Provide Escorts to Hospitals
Officers helped Don and Mary Wilson before, but the couple recently learned police aren't always able to do so.
"The general public's perception is that the police would help, aid you, in getting to the hospital in the event of a medical emergency, but evidently that's not their plan," said Don Wilson, who had a heart attack in mid-February.
Wilson's wife drove him to Boone Hospital Center from their home on the outskirts of Columbia because they don't trust ambulances to find their house.
"They are as good as they're given directions," explained Mary.
When Columbia police stopped the Wilsons for speeding on their way to the hospital, Mary thought the officer would escort them because of her husband's attack. But, department policy prohibits it.
"It's been in place for 20 years, but it's the first I've heard of it," said Capt. Zim Schwartze who still maintains the escort ban is the best policy.
"It is safer in all aspects regarding traffic, pedestrians, other vehicles," she explained. "And we are very fortunate here in Columbia to have several hospitals and fire personnel who can respond very quickly to us."
Although liability and safety seem to be the department's main concerns, police reports show the officer stopped the Wilsons for more than nine minutes at a time when every second counts. But, police cannot be held legally liable if someone dies during a traffic stop.
"I'm glad this never happened and I hope it never does," added Schwartze. "But, if someone did happen to die while we were trying to get help to them, we are covered because we're trying to get help to them."
The University of Missouri Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff's Department have the same policy. But, the Wilsons want other citizens to learn from their experience.
"The general public and the police department need this ironed out, where everyone knows what to expect, so we don't have misunderstandings like this."
Don Wilson is recovering from his heart operation, and he hopes the escort policy changes in the future.