The suicide of a 52-year-old man who was left to drown on an Alameda beach by firefighters and policemen watching from the shore seems to be tapping into some fundamental perceptions around the obligations of public safety officials in a crisis.

Many people have left comments responding to the interview with Interim Alameda Fire Chief D’Orazi that we posted yesterday. D’Orazi, in the interview, stated the reasons that department personnel on the scene didn’t respond.

A majority of the comments expressed outrage or disappointment with the public safety employees who didn’t act, though many people offered a defense of their decision not to intervene as well. Ian Hill, our Online Community Engagement Specialist, has collected some of these comments, which you can read below.

Responses to the Alameda Drowning Story: Anger, and Some Defenders 25 April,2014Jon Brooks

  • John Rollins

    By all means lets give them all another raise! Unbelievable. Now of course they will be wanting more money from the city to by more equipment.

  • smokeysf

    It is a sad state of affairs that Alameda has no plans to attempt water rescues. It is also sad that people blame the officers on duty. What people might not realize is a drowning victim and suicidal individual present very real risks. Should a rescuer have gone against policy and attempted rescue and failed the rescuer would face criminal charges, had the rescuer died, their family would have been left with no on duty death benefit, had the rescuer succeeded the rescuer could have been brought up on charges for going against orders. If there was a budget for water rescue, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. The rescue would have been attempted. Actual cases of people doing the right thing, of attempting to be heroes on duty, going against policy, have led to exactly the outcomes I have outlined. I know all would not have stood by if it had been a child drowning or a boating accident, but honestly it was a middle aged suicidal man with the capability to drag someone else in with him. The man was fully capable of walking to shore if he wanted…. What I do find more questionable however, is the fact a civilian was allowed to collect the body. If the scene was deemed safe, why not collect it yourselves. If the scene was not safe, why was the woman allowed in the water?

  • Kak

    Absolutely disgusting!! It took a woman bystander to get in the water and try to save this guy. I’ve seen lifeguard drills in Florida and those brave individuals go out in water much deeper than chest deep and bring the victims to shore with a small orange float and their skill. I have nothing but respect for police and firefighters, but going by the book in this case was insane. It’s a good thing this crew was not on duty in New York on 9/11.

  • Peter H.

    The city officials involved should face the judicial system. The individuals who stood by watching, department policies notwithstanding, will face their own judgment days. Sometimes people need to make their own decisions.

  • Mary

    What’s next, commendations for the so-called rescue personnel on the beach for not violating policy despite a guy drowning just offshore? Why did they even bother standing around for an hour while the poor man succumbed? No attempt to even commandeer or buy flotation devices from nearby residences or businesses? No requests for small inflatables from the Coast Guard since the helicopter was busy? No attempts to get rescuers from a nearby city that maybe was trained for water rescues? No city lifeguards anywhere? And this went on for a whole hour? Outrageous. The fire department personnel there that day should be ashamed.

    • Jeff

      Good points Mary. What were they doing during that hour? Considering a young woman in her 20’s was then tasked with fishing the lifeless body out of the ocean after the man succumbed, I am unclear on why the firemen even bothered to stick around the scene. Maybe they had bets on how long the guy would last, and needed to get an accurate time of death.

      Had they left, I bet the civilians would have figured out a way to save the man. But with the “ooh, it’s cold out there! I don’t want to get wet!” firemen around the citizens didn’t want to step on the toes of the “professionals”.

      The fire chief even stated on camera that he would let a child drown! If this was the most cynical of attempts to convince the public to hand over even more tax money, that man should rot in hell.

      • Mary

        I have since learned that there is a Big 5 Sporting goods very close to that beach. What would happen if these firemen took their fire suppression training using a yellow building but a real fire involved a blue building. Would they get out of fighting the fire on the grounds they weren’t trained for that situation? I say they should fire 2 of the 12 that showed up and the savings would be more than enough to pay for lots of training and equipment for the remaining guys. No excuses for their cowardice!

  • Kevin J. Farrell

    Shame on the police and fire dept. What about the guy that President reagan honored for rescuing the people from the plane crash in the Ptomac river. Probable he wasn’t certified. The fire chief should be relieved of duty. How can you be afire chief of an island city with no water rescue at all.

  • Rae Navarrete

    I used to think highly of firefighters. Not anymore. Ever since many cities started budget cuts that affect fire departments I have been hearing (on the sly) how the firefighter will ‘just have to move a little slower to get to an emergency’. Disgusting. A major attitude change is in order.

    Also, now I know why firefighters are good cooks; it’s all they can remember from all their years of training! FIRE ALL THE FIREFIGHTERS and POLICE INVOLVED!!!!

    • Thereisnohope

      You are so right! This is the mantra that Suckatomatoe has told the “putrid service” sector to tell the public so they can steal more money, via the tax extension, for their insane pensions. If they aren’t capable of doing the job – why are they employed? Fire them all!!!!!

  • Toni

    Thankfully the “first responders” in Alameda weren’t there on 911. I can only assume that they would have been in the way of true heroes as they ran from the danger. I sure hope that I don’t need to call 911 in Alameda, where the police and firemen can’t help because they might “break a nail.”

  • Fred

    Every public safety individual on scene should be charged with Manslaughter, convicted, jailed, and terminated from their job. Their appalling neglect of a human in dire need caused a senseless death.

  • Nicholas

    This is absolutley disgusting. Firefighters are put on pedestals because they “risk their lives to protect the public.” Their salaries are spared the ax. In reality those jobs are the most sought by all because they provide the most perks and outrageous compensation. Obviously those who watched this man die are not on the job to serve the public, but only to receive those perks and receive (note that I did not say “earn”) a paycheck. Every one of them should be ashamed and should be fired.

  • dan wilson

    I’m not surprised at either dept. Regarding their incompetence. The fire dept. Didn’t handle the Porter school fire w/o my dad’s help,an Oakland fireman and inept cops back in time that couldn’t’t find their ass from a hole in the ground. It is time for a change to intelligence.

  • J

    The police state they did not attempt to intervene because the victim was potentially unstable and violent. After the victim became unconscious, I doubt he was any threat. Certainly, the young lady who pulled him in did not view him as a threat.

  • Liz

    I wish to correct the record with new information. The fire chief is lying about budget cuts to the water rescue program. The training program was re-instated and fully funded in 2009 as the memo in this article clearly shows:

    The remaining question then, is why weren’t the Alameda firefighters certified?

    As for equipment, why did they not request the proper equipment which the county had and county dispatch reminded them about?

    Alameda firefighters have a great deal to answer for. I hope they stop the lying and start the answering.

  • LD, Alameda resident 30 years, frequent shore/water visitor

    The man attempted and was successful at committing suicide. Alameda police and fire, country sheriff and county fire, Oakland fire, Coast Guard on a boat and by a helicopter – all followed policy and fulfilled their duties. End of story.

    All Bay Area government security and safety agencies are going over their land-water rescue policies and plans, for rescues from accidental, not intentional, events. Policies on suicides do not need to be changed.

    Government works like that. We expect and get what we NEED and pay for. Not what some people WANT or what “heroes” calling shots from the couch demand.

    Dozens of wind-surfers, sail-boarders, waders and swimmers; lots of unsupervised children, boaters and even drunks and people lacking common sense, end up in the bay each year. Some can and will be rescued, some won’t.

    Police, Fire, Coast Guard and other rescue personnel risk their lives when the situation warrants, training and equipment provide, policy dictates and citizens pay for these services.

    If we start expecting safety and security forces to rout drunks out of bars and the obese from diners, then we can demand they dive in an “save” a man committing suicide by drowning off a public beach.

    • Thereisnohope

      You are patehtic. By your logic they followed policy? Well perhaps the policy should be do you job or we don’t need the bums! What a disgrace. Hide behind policy. I hope you are left to die

    • Jeff

      That’s a disgusting attempt to whitewash this crime, and you should be ashamed.

  • Ulysses

    Would the police have done the same thing if the suicidal man himself was a policeman in uniform?

  • Dennis

    I lived in alameda for 8 years (from New York) and this is actually completely what I would have expected… While it is a serene, beautiful place to live, the lack of “chutzpah” or backbone with the local people is exactly why I moved… the total bland complacency drove me nuts. The “snarky” police dept on the other hand are completely like organized gangsters.They have absolutely NOTHING to do but write ridiculously expensive tickets for every car parked 2″ outside the lines… seriously! They treat the local citizens as big time criminals for even the slightest infractions… thousands of dollars collected from working citizens rather than doing the fricken job they are PAID to do… server and protect.

  • Karli

    “Depraved-heart murder.” Look it up. It seems that, because of the line of work these guys are in, that they not only meet the definition, but exceed it.

  • Greg

    As a professional firefighter on the west coast, I think most of us were “called” to this job. But it is how I provide for my wife and children, and orders from the Division Chief to the firefighters was unambiguous: you “shall not enter the water”. So maybe all the beanery lawyers and finger-pointers can quit ragging the firemen because they were in a tough spot: if you violate policy and are successful, you’re a hero, not so successful and you’re looking for another job. If you need to identify a badguy, look at those that didn’t want to pay the taxes to have continued the Rescue Swimmer program without interruption.

    • Karli

      You’re way of line. A real firefighter does the right thing, in a selfless manner. Job or no job, esp with the Zack situation, or its likeness. This had nothing to do with taxes. This victim had probably paid his taxes many times over to have at least gotten an attempted rescue.

  • Frank J Stagg

    If the human being out there in the water had been a fireman or a police officer do you think they would have stood on the beach and watched him die?
    Would they have a allowed an untrained female civilian to bring the body in?


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. In 2014, he won a California Journalism Award for his coverage of ride services like Uber and Lyft and the taxi industry. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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