CHP officer arrests Battalion Chief for “blocking” highway at accident scene

This amazing story is from Firefighter Close Calls.

Last week (February, 15, 2010) on Highway 101 in Montecito, California there was a traffic crash and all the usual traffic crash attendees responded included the fire department, EMS and in this case, the California Highway Patrol. The crash occurred on the center divide, there were 2 vehicles involved, 6 patients, 1 known minor injury. The squad crew pulled past the fire engine, then it blocks the lane to provide a safe working area, (per FD SOP). Before we go further, it should be noted that the MFD normally have-and are quite proud of-the excellent relationship they enjoy daily with the CHP and area law enforcement officers. This is an isolated and rare incident.

At this point the recently assigned (very new to that area) CHP officer tells the Battalion Chief that the apparatus cannot block the lane because it will cause too much traffic backup, and to move the rig. The Battalion Chief tells him no, that he needs his crew protected until they take up from the run. About one minute from the time the BC goes on scene, the BC is now on the radio asking for a CHP supervisor to be sent to the scene. Next thing the crew saw was the CHP officer handcuffing/arresting the Battalion Chief.

At this point, the Firefighters had not even made patient contact yet. The CHP officer then goes to the Fire Captain and tells him the same thing, move the engine or “I am going to arrest you and the (Fire Engineer) as well”. Then the CHP Officer called for a heavy tow truck to tow the fire apparatus off the freeway.

The Fire Captain finally gave in as the fire dispatcher warned him that the heavy tow was 2 minutes out. Within a few minutes, the CHP officers supervisor showed up and un-cuffed the Battalion Chief. The original arresting officer then went back over to the Battalion Chief and gave him an “obstructing a police officer with an investigation ticket”.

Turns out the CHP officer just transferred from Bakersfield to that area less than 2 weeks ago. The picture on our home page is the Battalion Chief sitting handcuffed against the center guardrail. The ticket still stands and they haven’t heard what is up with the CHP officer, but he never backed down. It seemed like he never felt like he did anything wrong. Seeya in Court.

So now, what is the next thing that should happen? Why, naturally, someone in the “public safety community” almost always attempts to “take the edge off” (lighten up the situation). Sooooo, some fun-loving Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies stopped by the firehouse right after that incident with 2 cakes, and one had a file in it.

Are those SBSO Deputies funny or what!?

On a more serious note. the CHP Night watch Sergeant came over to the firehouse too and couldn’t apologize enough. We’re pretty sure this will be taken care of-both short term and long term.

Solution for any FD? Develop a plan way ahead of time involving Cops, Firefighters, EMS-everyone, so everyone is on the same sheet of music. WAY more Cops get struck than Firefighters-so we are protecting them as much as us. It’s a win-win thing. And it saves the hassle of having to bake all those delicious cakes.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

9 thoughts on “CHP officer arrests Battalion Chief for “blocking” highway at accident scene”

  1. This gives new meaning to the phrase “beware, your local police are armed and dangerous”.
    Hope that Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert don’t pick this one up!!
    And a dumb question, but how much does that CHP officer make a year for being that idiotic?
    This sure makes me appreciate my local, non-CHP LE folks a lot more.

  2. So. I’m in law enforcement and I have to say. We all have one. You can look around your station and find the one who would do something that dumb.

    On another note. I can’t tell you how much mileage we’re getting from this. Might I add that the BC’s coworkers have that much more ammunition for his retirement dinner. You can’t buy this stuff. As long as no one is hurt. Be safe!

  3. In nearly 30 years in law enforcement I have only heard this type of thing happening once. An NYPD and FDNY guy got into a fistfight at a scene in NYC. It was on a bridge and one nearly threw the other over it. But then I heard from a buddy on NYPD that it was an urban legend. The entire SoCal LEO and FD community needs to know who this dingbat is. Talk about a lack of judgement. My God! How do people like that get hired in the first place?

  4. Hmm. There’s ALWAYS three sides to the story; fire’s side, CHP side, & the truth. To make a comment like Emmet is riddicules. Let’s judge ALL CHP officers now, for the actions of one, shall we? How much do they pay a battalion chief for his calm, leveled headed decision making abilities to yell at a CHP officer to “Arrest me!”? Again, there are the 3 sides.

    1. I’d have to agree with B with regard to different sides of the story. CHP, as one of the first responders on scene, has the overall responsibility of scene management, and has to deal with multiple aspects of civil liability, as well as a responsibility to keep traffic flowing. Block the lanes with a fire engine, cause 5-10 miles of traffic back-up, and how long do you think it would take the heavy duty tow truck, and other resources, to arrive on-scene? The hose draggers, on the other hand, will only be on scene long enough to coordinate patient care, jack up traffic, and then they’re gone. The officer will remain on scene until the roadway is restored to “normal”. So let’s say the officer responsible for the incident has a developed a “plan” in his mind as to how he would like to handle the incident, coordinate patient care, and restore the scene to “normal”, but a battalion chief shows up and doesn’t want to go with the plan and states, “arrest me!” Overall this incident COULD have been handled afterward from a management perspective, but a decision was made, a decision that I’m well aware not everyone agrees with, and it looks bad when everyone reviews the situation with so-called 20/20 hindsight vision. Does this represent the view of all LEO’s… not at all. Would all LEO’s have acted in the same way… of course not. Do we all make mistakes in judgment every now and then… of course we do.

  5. o.k. B and Don Julio (btw, DJ your badge is showing),I think there is a bigger picture here. How could all these shenanigans occur while the patients are left untreated… The officer may have had the handle, which has many responsibilities INCLUDING the victims of the accident. And for the “calm and level headed” jab, I’m sure nobody on the scene was neither clam nor level headed once the pissing match started. Safety for the responders as well as the victim should always be a priority and pride apparently got in the way.

  6. From one LEO badge to the other, CHP (yes they are different “traffic masters”) it must suck to live life behind the radar gun. Fire saves lives, LEO’s protect lives, and CHP “C.ant H.andle P.atrol”. Get your speeding ticket, car pool violation, and DUI (probably your own mother at .08), but for God’s Sake, don’t arrest the Battalion Chief…

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