Proposed Chicago ordinance would increase penalties for attacks on emergency responders

Warning: Video contains graphic images

John Garcia Image
Friday, January 20, 2023
Proposed ordinance would up penalties for attacks on first responders
EMBED <>More Videos

A new proposed Chicago ordinance would increase the penalties for anyone who attacks a first responder, including paramedics and firefighters.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- They're often the first on the scene of an emergency, but Chicago paramedics say they face the threat of violence every day.

A new proposed ordinance would increase the penalties for anyone who attacks a first responder. John Garcia talked with the people behind it.

Matt Clohessy has worked in ambulances as a paramedic for 14 years. His work is all about trying to help those who need immediate medical attention. But a little more than a year ago, he needed the attention after a patient attacked him.

"He had a combination lock in his hand and he struck me right in the side of the face here," Clohessy said.

Clohessy needed stitches and his eye was swollen shut. He said many of his fellow paramedics have faced similar attacks in recent years. The firefighters union has a collection of photos showing injuries ranging from bruises to bite marks on hands and arms.

"We're not sure why they attack our paramedics," said Juan Hernandez, Chicago Fire Department. "They are there to take care of the patient."

SEE ALSO | Proposed expansion to hate crime law would protect first responders

19th Ward Alderman Matt O'Shea has introduced an ordinance that would increase penalties for anyone who attacks an emergency responder. They would face a fine of $1,000 and a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail.

"We need to hold people accountable," O'Shea said. "Medics need to be able to do their job and not worry about being hit upside the head as they're trying to save a life."

The fire department is researching putting cameras in the back of ambulances to help protect paramedics and prosecute anyone who attacks them.

The suspect who attacked Clohessy ran away from the ambulance and has never been caught to face charges. Officials say that happens all too often.

"It's underreported, but it does happen on a way, way too frequent basis," Clohessy said.

Another part of the ordinance would require signs to be placed in the back of ambulances to warn of the penalties for attacking paramedics. Alderman O'Shea said the proposed ordinance could be up for a vote as soon as March.