Police and firefighters were called to the scene in Alameda, Calif., where a 54 year-old man waded into the San Francisco Bay to commit suicide. He stood there for an hour while the official "first responders" did nothing and eventually died. A bystander went into the 54 degree water and fished out his body. The police and fire authorities said they did the right thing. Budget cuts had eliminated cold-water rescue training, they said, and rules restricted their ability to help. Cops said they didn't know if the man was violent and dangerous and reminded us that officer safety is their main priority. So they did nothing. People in California are outraged, as they should be. We've allowed public safety agencies to become bureaucracies run by well-paid public servants who use the hero card when they are negotiating for higher pay and benefits but often act more like DMV bureaucrats than heroes.
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