Cuffed Fire Engineer Files Claim, Wants CHP to Stop Obstructing Firefighters

Two incidents have come to light since the Feb. 4 event and one involves the same CHP officer according to the firefighter's attorney

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Chula Vista firefighter who was handcuffed at the scene of a crash by a CHP officer has filed a claim against the CHP, demanding a change in the way the agency conducts themselves in emergency situations. NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe reports. (Published Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014)

    A claim filed by a San Diego-area firefighter handcuffed at the scene of a crash demands that the California Highway Patrol fix a “longstanding problem” of CHP officers getting in the way of emergency crews on the state’s highways.

    "It was a very odd, surreal situation," Chula Vista Fire Engineer Jacob Gregoire recalled as he discussed the issue Tuesday.

    In a legal claim filed March 21, Gregoire claims CHP officers often “’delay’ and ‘obstruct’ firefighters and ‘other emergency technicians’ attempting to treat sick and injured on California highways.”

    "I'm looking for change. I'm looking for a very simple policy where anybody can pick it up and realize who is in charge, how an incident is going to be run and to eliminate five minutes of talking on the side of a freeway that's going to take away from a patient's "golden hour" of care," Gregoire said.

    Cuffed Firefighter Files Claim Involving CHP

    [DGO] Cuffed Firefighter Files Claim Involving CHP
    Chula Vista Fire Engineer Jacob Gregoire has filed a claim that demands the California Highway Patrol fix a “longstanding problem” of CHP officers getting in the way of emergency crews on the state’s highways. Gregoire was handcuffed at the scene of a crash by a CHP officer last month. (Published Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014)

    On the night of Feb. 4, Gregoire parked his fire engine at a crash scene along Interstate 805 near Telegraph Canyon Road.

    A vehicle had crashed into the center divider and then rolled through a construction area, injuring two people.

    When CHP officer Sergio Flores told Gregoire to move his fire truck, the fire engineer refused. He explained Tuesday that he had parked the fire engine in a way as to protect the ambulance and the patients on gurneys from oncoming highway traffic.

    Jacob Gregoire Describes Feb. 4 CHP Incident

    [DGO] Jacob Gregoire Describes Feb. 4 CHP Incident
    Chula Vista Fire Engineer Jacob Gregoire describes what's happened since his Feb. 4 incident with a CHP officer on I-805 south of San Diego. The second person to speak is Gregoire's attorney Dan Gilleon. (Published Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014)

    Soon after, the CHP officer handcuffed the engineer and put him in the back of a CHP patrol car.

    "At the time, I tell you, I thought my career was over," Gregoire said. "It was tough, it was really hard to sit in back of the CHP car and be treated the way he treated me."

    Gregoire claims he asked Officer Flores to loosen the cuffs but the CHP officer tightened them instead.

    Firefighter Handcuffing Leads to Protocol Review

    [DGO]Firefighter Handcuffing Leads to Protocol Review
    Chula Vista law enforcement officials have been reviewing policies after a fireman was handcuffed by a CHP officer while responding to a wreck. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming explains why Chula Vista’s fire captain says he doesn’t think a change in protocol is necessary. (Published Thursday, Feb 13, 2014)

    When he asked a second time for the cuffs to be loosened, he claims the officer laughed at him.

    The incident was shared nationally by firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and law enforcement officers around the nation and led to a protocol review by both the CHP and Chula Vista Fire Department.

    Fire Chief Explains Firefighter Detained

    [DGO] Fire Chief Explains Firefighter Detained
    Fire Chief Dave Hanneman with Chula Vista Fire Department explains the protocol for parking a fire engine at an accident scene. (Published Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014)

    The two agencies called the confrontation unfortunate and vowed to make it part of future training.

    CHP Cuffs Firefighter at Crash Scene

    [DGO]CHP Cuffs Firefighter at Crash Scene
    A Chula Vista firefighter ended up in handcuffs at the site of a car crash Tuesday night. The California Highway Patrol officer said the fire engine was blocking the road, but the firefighter said it was protecting the crash victims. CHP and Chula Vista Fire met for a discussion on Wednesday. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming has the outcome of that meeting. (Published Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014)

    However, Gregoire and his attorney Dan Gilleon say there have been several incidents since Feb. 4 and there has been no discussion about a clarification of who has authority at a highway crash scene.

    Gregoire fears the problem has been dropped by both agencies.

    "I don’t think I can go the rest of my career knowing that this just got swept under the carpet and this was no big deal," Gregoire said.

    About a week after the incident, Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman said what happened between the firefighter and CHP officer appeared to be more about miscommunication in an emergency situation rather than a need to change protocol.

    Currently, the CHP does have authority on highways. However, since Chula Vista firefighters arrived first on scene that day, the fire captain had initial command.

    Hanneman said, per standard operating policy, there was supposed to be a transfer of power or debriefing between the fire department and CHP that likely didn’t occur.

    Two incidents have come to light since the Feb. 4 event and one involves the same CHP officer according to the attorney.

    “This is an opportunity to fix this ongoing problem and make the patients on the roadway a priority,” Gilleon said.

    The attorney said that if the claim moves forward, the CHP officer may face a violation of PC 148 that prohibits anyone "who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician...in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment.."

    Gregoire said his union heard of similar stories from other "large counties" around the state involving interactions with CHP officers in the field.

    When asked if the leadership at Chula Vista Fire Department supported the claim filed by Gregoire, the attorney said, "It doesn’t appear the chief of the fire department in Chula Vista has been all that supportive."

    Gregoire is a 12-year veteran of the department.

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