New Law Protects EMS from Assaults

NEW YORK – A two-year battle for legislation that would help stop assaults on Emergency Medical Services Paramedics and Technicians (EMS/EMT) has ended in a victory for the dedicated first responders throughout the state of New York.Attacks on EMS and EMT workers have been on the rise since EMT Teresa Soler captured national attention when she was choked and punched in the face several times after she helped a man who was drunk and walking along the Brooklyn Bridge. The man was an assistant district attorney and managed to plea bargain his way out of jail time. Instead, he received only 10 days of community service.

Thanks to the new legislation, the next time someone assaults a paramedic they will be charged with a felony and could face as much as seven years in prison. “Medics and EMTs go to help people, and sometimes they find themselves in harm’s way because the law has been weak,” said 20-year EMT Oren Barzilay, who is recording secretary of Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics Local 2507 of AFSCME’s DC 37. “Now it sends a message to would-be perpetrators.”

New York State Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol sponsored the legislation with major backing from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and Local 2507.  At a press conference on Dec. 18, Local 2507 Pres. Israel Miranda announced plans to launch a public awareness campaign letting New Yorkers know it’s a felony to assault one of his members.

Miranda said the New York law could serve as a model for national legislation. “It should be a problem for anyone attacking a first responder,” he said. Miranda’s persistence in getting the law passed was recognized by Assemblyman Lentol, who noted, “He wouldn’t stop calling us. It was day and night.”