Police and firefighters in San Francisco watch man drown in bay and refuse to rescue or even try to recover the body. They blame budget cuts and lack of cold-water training. A bystander had to wade into the water and retrieve the victims body.
On Memorial Day, a suicidal man waded into San Francisco Bay outside the city of Alameda and stood there for about an hour, neck-deep in chilly water, as about 75 bystanders watched. Local police and firefighters were called to the scene, but they refused to help. After the man drowned, the assembled “first responders” also refused to wade into the water to retrieve his body; they left that job for a bystander.
The incident sparked widespread outrage in northern California, and the response by the fire department and police only intensified the anger. The firefighters blamed local budget cuts for denying them the training and equipment necessary for cold-water rescues. The police said that they didn’t know if the man was dangerous and therefore couldn’t risk the safety of their officers. After a local TV news crew asked him whether he would save a drowning child in the bay, Alameda fire chief Ricci Zombeck gave an answer that made him the butt of local talk-show mockery: “Well, if I was off duty, I would know what I would do, but I think you’re asking me my on-duty response, and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures, because that’s what’s required by our department to do.”