Cops, firefighters stand by and watch as California man drowns

Not just cops and firefighters, either. Spectators watched too, including his elderly stepmother, who was too frail to dive into the water herself.

It took an hour.

Weaver noted that a 2009 policy – revoked this week – prohibited firefighters from participating in water rescues. The policy was implemented after budget cuts ended water-rescue training. OK, I counter, but surely some first responders had been trained before 2009. Weaver’s answer: Yes, but they lacked the right equipment.

Weaver assured me that the firefighters who were on the scene feel horrible about what happened. “Every one of our members who was on that scene wishes that the policy would have allowed them to do something at some point,” he explained.

Any firefighter who broke with policy could have landed in a world of bureaucratic payback. That’s the problem. No government worker in America gets fired for following the rules.

As Russo put it, “We need an approach toward public service that is less rule-bound and more willing to take risk.”

That’s Debra Saunders, wondering whether the PD and FD would have been as respectful of bureaucratic rules if it had been a kid out there drowning. Cops note that there was no way to tell whether Zack was armed and dangerous, but of course that’s true for almost anyone attempting suicide. A guy sitting on a bridge rail is as likely to be concealing a weapon as this guy was, yet police will still try to grab him if they can. The city’s not buying the excuses, in any event: Given the national outcry over what happened, they’ve already decided to relax the policy against water rescues.

Wondering how the body was brought back to shore, incidentally? Turns out … a bystander decided to swim out there and get it, once Zack finally went horizontal in the water and started floating face down. Exit question: Isn’t this story just a darker, more tragic version of this one?

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