IN AN OPINION piece published in Commonwealth on Sunday, Dr. Jeanette Callahan posed the question: “I’m a doctor and I don’t have qualified immunity; Why should police?”
As a retired police chief, I’ll endeavor to answer the doctor’s question.
- Police officers must make split-second decisions in difficult, combative, confusing and weather-impacted environments. As a self-described pediatrician, I doubt the good doctor must make any difficult decisions without the opportunity to first consult with her peers, and in far more controlled environments.
- Police officers in the United States are involved in the deaths of approximately 1,100 persons per year- of all categories (legally justified, accidental ,or illegal). -According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Other studies report much higher figures, claiming the number of deaths from medical error to be as high as 440,000.
- Therefore, it’s understandable that doctors should be required to obtain their own insurance.; they’re a questionable risk. Police officers in the United States interact with the public approximately 53.5 million times per year. A small number of these very difficult encounters – frequently involving people who are criminals and resisting arrest – make us a much better risk.
I would respectfully suggest that the doctor stay in her own lane. She knows nothing of the world that we operate in. Likewise, I’ll refrain from offering medical advice.
Mark K. Leahy is a retired police chief and the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.