Cop Holds Up Doctor En Route to Hospital

Friday, April 10th, 2009

You’d think the high-profile incident in Dallas a couple of weeks ago would have registered a little better than this.

Dr. Ziworitin says he was rushing to UMC early Monday morning when an officer pulled him over near Rancho and Alta, “I may have briefly made a stop, and right there pulled my ID card which boldly says UMC and I said, ‘I am a physician going to the hospital.'”

Dr. Ziworitin says he then continued a few blocks to UMC, driving into a secure doctors’ parking lot which requires a badge to enter. The officer followed him in.

“The officer stepped out of his car and told me to stop and freeze. I explained, ‘Officer, I am sorry. I don’t want to be rude. I am a physician, there is an emergency, and I have to go.'”

Dr. Ziworitin says what happened next was shocking, “The officer proceeded to pull out his gun, point it at my face, and told me to lay face down on the ground, which I did. At this point, my ID card dropped on the floor and I remember him stepping on me, probably putting his knee on my back, and then cuffed me.”

Still cuffed, Dr. Ziworitin says he was put up against the police car as the officer called UMC to verify his employment, “Immediately after that call he proceeded to uncuff me and I ran upstairs to go take care of the emergency.”

Dr. Ziworitin says he delivered a baby and later called Metro’s Internal Affairs Division.

Even if the cop doubted this guy was a doctor, the cuffs, gunpoint, and a boot in the back all seem more than a little excessive, no?

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48 Responses to “Cop Holds Up Doctor En Route to Hospital”

  1. #1 |  ktc2 | 

    If it’s for OFFICER safety, nothing is excessive.

    Well, at least that’s how THEY think of it. Citizen safety? Meh. Officer safety? Anything goes.

  2. #2 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Read the comments over there, particularly Jaime’s. It’s mind-boggling.

  3. #3 |  Z | 

    He did it because he could and really isn’t that the best reason to do anything in life? Even Sheryl Crow sang that if it makes you happy it can’t be that bad and how are we to deprive the MEN IN BLUE WHO PROTECT US EVERY DAY from a little happiness? Are you some commie pinko traitor or WHAT? LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!

    Emmm….I think that’s what they would say.

  4. #4 |  qwints | 

    I don’t know what to make of the doctor’s statement that he “may have stopped.” Admittedly, the force does seem excessive and one has to wonder about the racial element, but it’s possible that the doctor’s behavior was not quite as reasonable as he tries to make it sound.

  5. #5 |  Andrew Williams | 

    I rarely agree with G Gordon Liddy, but in cases like these the phrase “jack-booted thugs” seems appropriate.

  6. #6 |  Gonzo | 

    A bit off topic, sorry;

    Should we file this under “Puppycide: Control Group”?

    http://tinyurl.com/ddd693

  7. #7 |  SusanK | 

    It’s a boot on the neck that’s excessive. There’s nothing wrong with a boot on the back if it’s accompanied by cuffs and a loaded firearm.

  8. #8 |  The Angry Optimist | 

    At first I thought “WTF”? And then I surfed over to the link and saw the doctor was black and my shock subsided into angry resignation.

  9. #9 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Regarding the aforementioned Jaimie and the comment here it is,

    For those of you who think that it was okay for the doctor to flash his badge and use his pass key to get into the parking lot, let me play a little scenario for you. Let’s say an actual “thug” that resembled the doctor had killed the doctor, taken his pass and pass key. Sped to the hospital with a gun and Officer Beck just dismissed him because he assumed he was a doctor due to the badge and pass key. Then the “thug” goes on a shooting rampage. Now what? Police are trained to recognize and act on the unexpected and in today’s society, anything is possible, we are never too safe (i.e. Binghamton, NY and VA Tech) Too many questions of the doctors identity were relevant. Officer Beck was simply doing his job to keep as many people safe as possible.

    The lack of internal logic here is simply astounding for this defender of the police…lick spittle sycophant is more accurate IMO.

    If the officer is trained to spot the odd/suspicious then clearly this cop failed as the doctor was not odd nor suspicious because he was precisely who he claimed to be. Nope we are to let off this kind of jack booted thuggery simply on the extreme possibility that the guy might be a spree killer.

    “We are never too safe….” A clear hallmark of authoritarian thinking and of one who is petrified of their own shadow.

  10. #10 |  ktc2 | 

    MDs vs. Cops?

    Now that a class of the titanic egos.

  11. #11 |  ktc2 | 

    class = clash

    damn I need to read my own stuff first

  12. #12 |  Hamburgler007 | 

    I’m more often than not critical of cops who use excessive force, and the cop in this case could definitely have handled the situation better, but I would hate to have this guy as a doctor, he strikes me as a grade A moron.

    Flashing a random badge at a cop who is pulling you over, and then proceed to drive on, is well, just dumb. I could pull out a badge saying colgate cavity patrol but wouldn’t mean shit. The doctor should have just pulled over, explained the situation, and then the ball would be in the cops court.

    So long story short, fail for both the cop and doctor, and 2 simpsons references in the same post.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Personally, I don’t even think cops should be able to pull someone over for speeding unless said speeding was actually threatening someone’s safety. When you have to have a machine to detect whether someone is breaking the law, then you probably don’t need the law to begin with. I would throw out the speeding laws and keep the reckless driving laws.

    Speeding laws have turned into a tax on people who like to drive faster than other people and have little to do with safety.

    I saw an old high speed chase video on TV the other day where they were after the guy for driving with a suspended license. They were going 120 mph and risking people’s lives for that.

    Protect and serve, my ass.

  14. #14 |  MF | 

    Whether I like it or not (I don’t particularly), not stopping for a law officer in the US is simply not an option. The fact that this guy thought his medical ID would convey his rush to the officer (the distance between them when he flashed the ID is not provided, but if it’s anything like my ID badge at work, there is no reasonable way someone in the car next to me would be able to make heads or tales out of it other than a white card with some kind of picture and text on it) is also moronic, and I agree with the commenter above that this actually reflects very poorly on the doctor.

    Did the cop need to draw his firearm and physically abuse his suspect? Doesn’t seem like it. Was the cop reasonable in chasing this guy down? Yes.

    I know this site stands for curbing judicial and law enforcement abuses, but that doesn’t mean that every single story RB posts villifies only the law enforcement officers involved. To the posters who think the Dr. did nothing wrong: should the police, when seeing a vague badge of some kind (which conceivably could be a hospital ID), automatically assume the suspect is a doctor and fail to pursue? If so, that would indeed make being a criminal a helluva lot easier.

  15. #15 |  Waste | 

    Actually I think this one may not be a good example of what you are trying to demonstrate. By the Dr’s own admission he didn’t stop and he just flashed his work ID saying he was on the way to the hospital. He didn’t say he was going there for an emergency.

    From the article it appears that the officer called in a failure to yield so when the vehicle did eventually stop it appears from the description a felony stop was initiated.

    The officer verified the Dr’s credentials then let him go even though there is likely no ‘emergency’ exception to the traffic laws in that state. Most ‘emergency’ exceptions to the traffic laws require the vehicle to display flashing lights and sirens to warn other vehicles also on the street. Also the failure to yield is likely a criminal violation and not a traffic violation. So the Dr could have been arrested most likely.

    So from what is known at this point I don’t really see an issue with it. Anyone can flash something that looks like a badge and make that kind of claim. Now if the driver had been an officer and flashed his badge to get out of a ticket would people here have the same reaction? Don’t we have enough issues with people thinking they are privileged and beyond the law already?

    Now more facts may come out. Maybe the officer used excesive force. But the story does not seem to indicate that. The Dr seems most upset that a gun was pointed at them but that is fairly standard in a felony stop. Many police vehicles have video and audio as most people here know. So I’ll withhold judgement on this one until I see or hear more information. There at least will be the radio transmissions which are public informaiton and that could indicate more than this story does.

  16. #16 |  chance | 

    Jeez, just a tiny amount of restraint on the cops part would have been a win either way. If the guy really is a doctor, no harm no foul. If the guy turns out not to be a doctor, and few people would care about the arrest or boots to the neck or anything (with the extra “benefit” of now having more charges to stack on the “doc”).

  17. #17 |  chance | 

    Waste, you bring up some good points, and it’s true we are hearing only one side of the story, but do dangerous felons usually flash an ID and drive an additional 2 or 3 blocks before parking in a hospital lot? I still think this could have been handled better, though perhaps the doctor should have used better judgment as well.

  18. #18 |  Pai | 

    When I read the headline, I knew the doctor was going to be black. Sad.

  19. #19 |  MacK | 

    I love how often this is stated by police spokespersons:
    “Metro Sergeant John Loretto says…… the Internal Affairs Section takes these complaints very seriously”.

    If one time these goons would say “the department could really care less about these complaints”.

    I would at least know someone is finally telling the truth.

  20. #20 |  Robert | 

    Everything you need to know about the police….you can learn from watching the police.

  21. #21 |  craig | 

    Here’s an idea. If you suspect that someone is not a doctor when they pull into a hospital parking lot saying they are responding to an emergency situation, you could:

    A. check their ID.

    B. Follow them into the hospital and verify the person’s ID.

    C. All of the above.

    The only way this could have been worse was if the baby died in delivery because the cop was held up by some moron cop.

    These cops really need to start thinking, or they are just going to be a walking civil rights violation.

    For those who say that the Dr. should have done something else, how ELSE do you suggest the respond to an EMERGENCY, potential life and death situation?

    The cop can chase the guy down. He can follow him into the hospital, but detaining a doctor on the way to deliver a baby is unacceptable. This cop needs to get hammered.

  22. #22 |  Radley Balko | 

    Just to be clear, it wasn’t the stop I have a problem with. It’s the pushing him down to the ground, drawing the gun, and stepping on him. Seems he could have checked his ID. Or even called it in without the excess force.

  23. #23 |  Mel David | 

    I don’t know if Dr. Ziworitin is a native English speaker or not, but I wonder if “I may have stopped and shown him my badge” is an unclearly phrased “should have” type of statement (ie “I should have stopped briefly and shown him my badge”). As in, one option would’ve been to do that, I did this, bad result.

    If that is the case he even fooled the reporter, whose segue into the next paragraph suggests he was describing an actual and not hypothetical action.

  24. #24 |  Mel David | 

    By the way, even the worst newspaper in America wouldn’t run a story with such an ambiguous statement in it. The reporter would’ve asked for clarification. Local news is such trash.

  25. #25 |  Waste93 | 

    Radley,

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you at this time. Pulling a sidearm is standard in a felony stop for law enforcement. Also they are trained to gain control of the subject as quickly as possible in those cases hence the immediate cuffing. Only once you have the person detained to you start asking those questions. There is no indication the officer was unduly rough at this point though it may have happened. Hence waiting for more information from video or audio I think is most prudent. Yes there are bad officers out there and you have shown a number of them however that doesn’t mean everyone who claims abuse is correct either. It sounds like your issue is more with the standard training for felony stops than with the how this was handled. That is a slightly different issue however.

    Chance,

    As has been reported on this case a number of times sometimes the bad guys have used fake badges. Also this was a hospital ID so it’s not a law enforcement badge and it’s likely the officer couldn’t identify the badge or didn’t recognize it.

    So far it seems the guys complaint is that he is a Dr and shouldn’t have to obey a lawful order as he was breaking the law for an emergency the officer should have telepathically known about because he flashed some badge.

    I just think this isn’t a good case at this point. More information may show it was. But it may also disprove it. Jumping to a conclusion in every case tends to undermine the real cases and can cause a crying wolf scepticism.

    Look at some of the remarks that have already brought race into their comments though the Dr has not made any indications that was a factor and I didn’t see an indication of the officers race either.

  26. #26 |  SusanK | 

    First of all, I really had to note the sarcasm in my earlier post (#7)?
    Second, failing to stop for police isn’t necessarily a “felony” – it depends on the laws of the particular state. Should it be? Aren’t there plenty of times when ignoring the police is the right thing to do?
    The reason why “reasonable” force is allowed to apprehend “fleeing felons” is because felonies used to be serious, dangerous crimes (robbery, rape, murder). Now that everything under the sun seems to be a felony, that rule needs to be rethought.

  27. #27 |  Mike T | 

    What the cop did was unprofessional, and he should be disciplined for that. However, the doctor could have prevented it either by calling the dispatcher and telling him to tell the cop to follow him into the building if it meant that much to him or he could have just pulled over. No need to give assholes like that cop an excuse.

  28. #28 |  chance | 

    “As has been reported on this case a number of times sometimes the bad guys have used fake badges. Also this was a hospital ID so it’s not a law enforcement badge and it’s likely the officer couldn’t identify the badge or didn’t recognize it.”

    I agree that was a reasonable possibility, but it is also an easy one to check and he need not have escalated the situation. Now, if the doctor never stopped, as suggested above, then I guess I would swing a little more towards your position. Still, having a gun pointed at you isn’t fun. I’ve woken up with a shotgun in my face, and the memory isn’t pleasant. That’s why police should only do it when they absolutely have to. I’ve just not sure that failure to yield should be an automatic felony.

  29. #29 |  Z | 

    I have heard that cops are able to check id’s without roughing up suspects. But if the doc really did flash the badge and then just speed off he deserves an ass kicking for stupidity alone. However my hunch is, he flashed the badge, said he was a doctor, pulled off the shoulder (as the cop was not blocking him) then pulled into the hospital where the cop, by now thoroughly pissed, decided to teach him to “respect myh authorita!”

  30. #30 |  OGRE | 

    As Susan said, failure to yield is not necessarily a felony; it depends on the state. In my state it is a misdemeanor.

    Even if it is, pulling out the firearm is NOT standard arrest procedure. As a practicing criminal defense attorney, of the hundred or so felony defendants I’ve represented, I can probably count on one hand how many had guns drawn on them.

    As is often said in firearm safety circles, “never point a weapon at something you are not willing to shoot.” If there is no immediate danger, there is no need for the weapon, and drawing it does nothing but substantially increase the likelihood of danger. Besides, accidental firings are way too common, just ask the Culosi family.

  31. #31 |  Pinandpuller | 

    To be fair to the cop, the only black Dr he ever heard of was Dr Dre.

    The main error the cop made was not tasing the guy 2 or 3 times. That could look bad on his next assesment.

  32. #32 |  jahigginbotham | 

    Chaney (#2) suggests Jaime’s response is mind-boggling. But Jaime’s remarks may very well provide a valid explanation. The good Dr. Ziworitin may reasonably have not stopped based on the logical possibility that a look-a-like thug may have killed the genuine officer Beck and used said officer’s car and gun to terrorize doctors. Certainly no real police officer would have behaved as this Beck doppelganger did.

  33. #33 |  Aaron | 

    Dave Krueger: Unfortunately, arrests for reckless driving (or driving faster than conditions allow) in a state without a speed limit at the time (montana, IIRC) were thrown out for the law being too vague.

  34. #34 |  Two--Four | 

    […] did this during the years of her service. I’m so glad she’s not in that business anymore. (link: Balko) Apr 11, 09 | 8:18 am AxeBitesVarious guitars I see floating by, mostly Gibson and mostly eBay. […]

  35. #35 |  Jeremy | 

    Pulling a sidearm is standard in a felony stop for law enforcement.

    OK, so the standard’s wrong. Does that make you feel better?

  36. #36 |  Jesse | 

    Jeremy-

    I agree. Pulling a gun (and pointing it at a suspect) in a situation where there is no danger IS excessive force.

  37. #37 |  Dr. T | 

    The mistake the physician made was stopping at all. He should have driven to the hospital with his unwanted police escort, gone straight to a hospital security officer or the ER front desk, and asked the hospital employees to calm down the cop while he went to the delivery room.

    I had a similar incident when driving my severely injured daughter to the hospital. I was driving 80+ when I passed an unmarked police car just before the offramp. I continued driving until I got to the ER. I got a trauma team working on my kid before the deputy got to me. He started to give me a lecture, but I told him my child was near-death and to give me a ticket or go away. He went back to his car. Surprisingly, the Sheriff’s Department called me the next day: they wanted to know how my daughter was doing, and expressed sympathy that she was still comatose. My outcome was much better than the Dallas doctor’s.

  38. #38 |  Len | 

    Police/physician issues self-correcting. After a few local police are forced to wait in the ER for their injuries to be healed, or after some police bullet wounds are cleansed with denatured alcohol, the police will back down for rather a while.

  39. #39 |  freedomfan | 

    I agree that the doc could have done things a little differently, but the officer’s behavior was still wrong.

    To those who are claiming that the cop had no reason to believe the badge, remember that he saw the doctor show the same badge in orer to enter a secure parking lot. If it was a fake badge, it was good enough to fool the people who are paid to recognize it, which is the best indication the cop was going to get.

    Meanwhile, the big point here is the excessive use of force in a situation where the very most that the cop had on the doctor was that he blew a stop sign. There was never any indication that the person he was pursuing was a violent or dangerous person. This isn’t a case where the cop saw someone fleeing the scene of a murder or something. There was no justification for drawing his weapon.

    This is a cop who didn’t get enough deference to his authority and who wasn’t willing to admit that someone might have a higher priority than making sure a cop was happy before dealing with the real world.

    BTW, I very strongly agree that there are too many laws (and traffic codes are rife with them) designed to give the police an excuse to pull someone over and ticket them. There are times when speeding endangers lives and times when it does not, but they can ticket you either way.

  40. #40 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I don’t think the concept of excessive force ever enters their heads. The only thing cops consider is that the person is ignoring or resisting their attempt to stop them. It doesn’t matter whether the person is speeding, fleeing from a murder, or just or taking pictures of cops. When a person resists, cops will escalate the situation as needed to make them comply even if it means drawing their weapon for a minor traffic violation. The moment someone resists, that becomes their new center of focus regardless of the reason for the original stop.

    Cops cannot tolerate being ignored. It’s like being told they have a small penis. Very hard on their egos.

  41. #41 |  David Chesler | 

    Len is correct. I’ve heard the same. Police usually give MDs a lot of deference for that reason.

  42. #42 |  seeker6079 | 

    I love circuit-breaker thinking shown by people engaging in blaming the doctor: if the doctor handled it wrong then the conduct of the officer was justified. Not the complete absence of proportionality.

  43. #43 |  Michael | 

    #42 seeker6079

    It maybe that people are letting their regard for doctors drop to the lows that reflect the same type of, opinions they have of police officers. In small towns there is no problem with this type of thing. Everybody know who you are. And, if you are going, like a bat out of hell, responding to an emergency, they already know why.

    During my first wife’s, second delivery, we had to wait a half an hour for her to deliver because her OB was not there! I was concerned, to say the least. I would have delivered my second child, had he not shown up when he did!

    It is crazy to think that delaying a birth is safe. Especially when it comes to trying to appease a mad cop!

    The comments did make me wonder what people think of doctors in these changing times! I guess it is OK if your doctor is driving expeditiously, for an emergency, but not someone else’s doctor!? I went through red lights (carefully) and everything under the sun, as long as it did not endanger me or anyone else.

  44. #44 |  Phelps | 

    This all goes back to the “everybody goes home tonight” philosophy. What it really means is “every COP goes home tonight… but screw the people who die while we delay so that we make sure we go home, and the people that we kill rather than take the remote chance that they might be some rare psychotic.”

  45. #45 |  Judi | 

    “Poetic Justice” would be if this officer just happened to be a patient in this hospital sometime in the future and need emergency medical treatment only to find Dr. Ziworitin’s face looking down into his.

    Perhaps the doc could ‘delay’ the treatment until AFTER he has properly identified this “Barney Fife” as a REAL police officer!

    Then of course the doc could start an IV with a 14 gauge needle, give him a ‘dry’ shave in certain unmentionable areas whether he needed it or not and place some ‘restraints’ on Officer Doofus!

  46. #46 |  John | 

    #1, Cop behavior is unfortunately always not dictated by safety, whether for theirs or others, it’s about showing who has the biggest dick. It’s just an authority game for these bad/confused cops, which is such a shame because it makes the citizens look down on police as just a bunch of thugs when 99% of cops 99% of the time are doing an ethical moral and very difficult job to the best of their abilities. If the other cops really were rational about it, they would crack down on the bad cops harder than anyone because it makes them all look bad. I’m not saying that cops are irrational, just that they need to look past their fellow badge and short term interest and have a longer view about it, it would benefit everyone in society.

  47. #47 |  IT | 

    the police used excessive force and we all know, despite the crazy comments left on this cite. he saw the Dr’s ID with his picture, knowing it was not a stolen badge, and still did’nt let him go. he asked the Dr for the phone number to labor and delivery to confirm he was a doctor at the facility, and after speaking with the nurse, he let him GO. i taught that was DUMB. what if he had given the police his girlfriends number, would he have known, yet he believed someone he did’nt see. if that doctor was white, he woul’nt have treated him that way. that cop needs to be fired for his stupidity, and being a RACIST

  48. #48 |  IZ | 

    all i can say is the officer she put him self in the patient’s situation. if that was his wife the doctor was going to save, how would he feel if another cop stops the doctor and something happenz to his wife.or lets say something happend to the patient who was in labor, this would have been a totally different story entiely. the officer would have been in a deeper shit

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