Viewpoint: City mistreated officer whose actions should be considered heroic

By Sara Tirrito
City editor

City officials in New Britain, Conn., have blatantly reminded one of their police officers that doing the right thing isn’t always easy.

Officer Frank Barbagiovanni tried to help save the life of an unconscious boy by performing CPR until medics could arrive at the scene of the emergency in November. The boy later died at a hospital.

The officer was exposed to the 10-year-old’s “bodily fluids” when the boy threw up during the ordeal — a fact that has caused trouble for the officer long since.

After the incident, Barbagiovanni followed protocol by sending in paperwork related to workers’ compensation claims, in case he did in fact become ill from the incident and needed to file a claim.

But city officials sent Barbagiovanni a response that “indicated that the incident was not ‘causally related to a work-related condition’ and that [they] would contest workers’ compensation if he applied for it,” according to a Fox News report.

In other words, if Barbagiovanni had become sick from performing CPR, city officials would not have awarded him workers’ compensation. Thankfully the officer has not suffered any sickness.

The city’s mayor has since apologized to Barbagiovanni, and Phil Sherwood, one of the mayor’s aides, said “the attorney wasn’t saying CPR isn’t part of a police officer’s duties” in the original letter, according to an article in the Hartford Courant.

But as of today, Barbagiovanni had not been told that he will be given coverage if it becomes necessary.

Hopefully the city will make amends, but it’s appalling that officials would handle such a situation this way in the first place.

Had Barbagiovanni stood by and refused to help in the face of an emergency, he surely would have been condemned for that inaction by both city officials and civilians — such a response from them would be expected. But when Barbagiovanni took action, it seems that the city initially refused to see it as part of his job, though they now say that is not the case.

You can bet, though, that those city officials would have wanted him to take action had their lives been the ones on the line.

The situation further begs the question: Would Barbagiovanni have been treated this way if he had been successful in helping to save the boy’s life? Surely the city wouldn’t treat a proclaimed hero the way they have treated this officer, whose actions many still call heroic.

Barbagiovanni has said he would still act again in the future if he faced a similar emergency; that’s fortunate, because the treatment he received from city officials might have caused some officers to think twice.

Police officers face enough opposition in their day-to-day work. They shouldn’t have to worry about opposition from their city when they’ve done the best they could to react to an emergency situation.

Hopefully the city will actually correct its response to Barbagiovanni and support him with compensation if it does indeed become necessary (blood tests so far have come back with healthy reports, according to Fox).

Hopefully New Britain, Conn., police officers will be able to do their jobs in the future knowing that they have the financial protection and support of their city and the officials who run it — officers in every city should have that security. After all, those officers are the people providing us security every single day.

Sara Tirrito is a junior journalism major from Texarkana and is the Lariat’s city editor.