Police Officer Who Tried To Save Dying Boy Says City Claims Life-Saving Duties
By DON STACOM
The Hartford Courant
11:37 PM EST, January 19, 2012
Performing CPR in a futile attempt to revive a dying 10-year-old boy was traumatic, police Officer Frank Barbagiovanni says.
But the experience became worse, he said, when city attorneys sent him a notice that seems to say the rescue efforts weren't part of his job.
The six-year patrol veteran was stunned by that letter, and sent an emotional three-page response that also went to his union, the police chief, the mayor and the police commission. Barbagiovanni was still waiting for answers Thursday, nearly a month later.
"It's frustrating and disappointing to not even get a reply," Barbagiovanni said. "I want to know why the city would train me in CPR if I'm not expected to use it? And what am I supposed to do the next time a woman hands me a child and is yelling 'Help him!'"
City officials on Thursday declined to discuss specifics of the case. Mayor Tim O'Brien's office acknowledged that Barbagiovanni was supposed to have received a response long ago, but didn't. There was no explanation of what went wrong.
"As soon as the mayor was made aware of this, he instructed corporation counsel to get back to the officer. They should have done that," said Phil Sherwood, an aide to O'Brien.
On Nov. 11, Barbagiovanni was dispatched to a house where a 10-year-boy had stopped breathing. As soon as he got out of his patrol car, the mother ran to him with the unconscious boy, and Barbagiovanni began CPR until paramedics arrived and took over. The boy later died at the Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Because the boy vomited on the officer's face and in his open mouth during CPR, supervisors directed Barbagiovanni to file a report documenting that he had potentially been exposed to communicable diseases.
City attorneys later notified him that the incident was not "causally related to a work-related condition" – and that they would contest workers compensation if he applied for it.
Blood tests have shown there was no illness, and Barbagiovanni hasn't claimed any medical benefits. But the notice appears to say the city would refuse benefits to any police officer who is hurt or sickened when performing CPR, Barbagiovanni said.
He replied with a three-page letter in mid-December, sending copies to O'Brien, Chief William Gagliardi, union President John Gonzalez and the police commission.
"I thought the city would want me to try and save a life, they trained me in the skills to do so," he wrote. "The city on one hand cannot demand and acknowledge we expose ourselves to threats of injury and then state that we do not have to."
Barbagiovanni waited a month for someone to answer his letter. He says the only person to discuss it was Gonzalez, who told him Gagliardi was irritated that Barbagiovanni had sent it out.
"I like where I work, I like the people I work with. The cops here are good people — I get along with everybody," Barbagiovanni said. "That's why this is so demotivating."
Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant