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City Promises Policy Changes in Wake of Beach Death

The City of Alameda is promising policy changes at the Alameda Fire Department in the wake of the death of an Alameda resident who evidently took his own life by standing in the waters of the San Francisco Bay 150 yards from the shore of Robert Crown Memorial Beach while police officers, firefighters and bystanders watched.

According to Wikipedia, temperatures in the Bay range through the seasons from a low of 46 °F to 73 °F. According to an Alameda Police Department statement, on May 30th, at 11:31 a.m., the Alameda Police communication center received a 9-1-1 call regarding a man in his 50’s who had walked into the water in an evident attempt to take his own life. Police and fire commanders on the scene called the United States Coast Guard for assistance. The Coast Guard dispatched a 25 foot propeller-driven vessel and a helicopter from San Francisco, but the Coast Guard boat drafts too deep for where the man was standing, and couldn’t get close enough to him, and the helicopter arrived over an hour after it was requested, due to refuelling at Oakland Airport after returning from a different mission.

Alameda police say that the Alameda County Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, and the East Bay Regional Park Police District were all contacted for assistance, but that none of these agencies were able to respond. The Alameda Police Department boat docked at Mariner Square Marina stayed dry on the opposite side of the island for the duration of the incident, because, as Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman told Action Alameda News, “there are only two police officers trained in how to operate it, and neither one was on duty [Monday.]”

Ms. Goldman also told Action Alameda News that, “The Fire Department is taking immediate steps to change its existing policy on shore-based rescue so that the incident commander has the discretion to send swimmers into the water as circumstances allow. The Interim Chief is also putting resources into retraining and re-certifying rescue swimmers so that they can be available in the near future.” Pressed, Goldman offered no further details.

In February 2009, Action Alameda News published an editorial from Alameda Firefighters President Domenick Weaver on the mothballing of the Alameda Fire Department’s Rescue Boat and Fire Boat, due to budget constraints. At that time, Mr. Weaver wrote, “the Alameda Fire Department will still respond on water rescues and to boat and marina fires, but all action will be limited to what can be accomplished from land.”

At City Hall last night, news crews from three local networks were on hand, and Action Alameda News witnessed two as they attempted to get statements from City officials. Entering Council Chambers, Mayor Marie Gilmore ducked questions, saying that she would read a statement from the dais.

TV News Crews in front of Alameda City Hall, May 31 2011

According to police, during the incident on Monday, a Good Samaritan went into the water after the victim had lost consciousness, and brought him to shore. On reaching the shore, the Alameda Fire Department transported him to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. In the statement provided to Action Alameda News, the City did not provide the victim’s name.

26 comments to City Promises Policy Changes in Wake of Beach Death

  • Rev. Poodlesmurf

    what if it was a fireman in the water?

  • anon

    we should test that.

  • Barb

    Anyone who has been in the water at South Shore knows one can walk out for a great distance before there is enough depth to swim, especially at low tides. But to stand there and watch for 45 minutes really shows the true level of motivation of many public safety employees. “Yeah, sure, pay me till the City bleeds, but I don’t want to get wet”.
    Firefighters are too busy estimating their precise retirement date and figuring out what it needed on their homes in Brentwood. Remember, they are “FIRE” fighters. And we now have PARAMEDICS. There is no way they could possibly be trained to swim or do a beach rescue without increasing their skill set and pay grades. Give the citizens a break. Get off your duffs, and pretend you care about Alamedans before your drive home. If they demand a pay increase, the City would be bankrupt in less than 5 years. So we’d have to rescue the next guy ourselves anyway.

    Come to think of it, we’d better get some of the able bodied citizens to learn to drive their trucks. Maybe Bonta and Russo. Tam is too short (and who wants someone who is already suing the City to drive a big truck?) , and Gilmore is too dangerous on the road. Doesn’t believe that she needs to obey the rules and stop for pedestrians.

  • DHL

    I am in with Adam Gillitt on this one: where was and is any urgency that shows human concern?!

    The most telling thing ever was Ken Wayne’s report that a city staffer approached him and asked him to put a ‘good spin’ on the story:

    WTF? Bad is Bad! Freaking own up to it. Why does the city continually think they can under- and illegally-perform and not be accountable to it?! Do they think we are idiots? That we believe their spin and feel sorry for the first responders who had to suffer the experience of being afraid to do something while someone drowned? Believe that Gilmore did not violate the Brown Act and the City Charter? Believe that stroke victims are better off going to Alameda Hospital?

    I heard zero concern for the victim. ZERO. Something is so very, very wrong in the organizational cultures in our city. It is messed up.

  • Horrified Alamedan

    Never before have public safety personnel been so handsomely paid for wearing their uniforms. Yet never before have they been so lacking in compassion & common sense! Alameda did not become an island yesterday, yet AP&FD behave like they were born yesterday. Adam Gillit was right when he said there’s a cultural problem here. Officers who have to wait for policies & procedures to be changed before they know what the right thing to do is, do not belong on ANY public safety detail! It smacks of Nuremburg, when the officers were “only following orders”. If this was Japan,the fire & police chiefs responsible for establishing & maintaining this climate of no action unless defined by policy & procedures would resign in disgrace. Mike Noonan said it best in last night’s Council meeting=the safety of our Police officers is the primary goal! NOT the safety of the public! Yep, he said that–go to the archived video & check it out!I’ve got a positive suggestion to help balance Alameda’s budget: Start by FIRING every one of those uniformed leeches who stood around & gawked as an Alamedan lost hope in this community & sank into the bay. How much money would that save?
    I heard this tragic Alameda event being discussed on KFOG-FM today

  • Anon

    Is this the new Leadership? Transparency, without competency? We are adrift with a bunch of overpaid persons reviewing protocols and collecting paychecks. When the Emperor is naked and wearing no underwear the concept of transparency is disgusting. Who wants to see how badly the City staff is running the City? And how little our “leaders” know or care about it. Looking into it after the fact seems to be AFD’s protocol. The fire at the Base releasing hazardous materials in the air to share with all the citizens, and now letting citizens float off into the sunset. Good grief. With global warming coming and the inundation of the edges of the island with a few more feet of water ahead of schedule, Alamedans better start thinking about our future.
    Can’t we deduct burial costs for this poor man from the public safety budget? That might be an incentive to get them to start caring.

  • Jim

    This is the same ineffective Alameda Police that got busted for using police patrol car computers for sharing racipal slurs in the 90’s: See li link to article:

  • Karen

    I’m disgusted by all of it. But, I’m really disgusted with the private citizens on that beach – they just stood there and watched? What is wrong with people that they could possibly do that? Why did no one do anything until after the guy was dead.

    Disgusting and disturbing.

  • DHL

    What kind of criminal charges could be brought? And what agency would bring them?

  • Jim

    explain 911 to me again?

  • Jim

    heads need to roll, starting with the Mayor. She is ultimately responsible.

  • Any Alamedan

    According to AlamedaPatch’s 2010Employee Earnings & Benefits, Mike & Mike (Noonan & Fisher), chiefs of APD & AFD, respectively;are the #1 &#3 top earners of the City. Each gets more than $300,000 annually. Forget criminal charges/putting an end to their salaries would save >$600K. Last night, instead of acknowledging any personal responsibility, Fisher used the tragic incident as a forum from which to ask for MORE money for FF’s, when their job description says they are supposed to have water rescue ability before being hired.

  • Anon

    Let’s make them walk the plank and see if they have to grab for a protocol before saving themselves.

  • anon

    I hope you politically involved people change the profit driven politics in Alameda because what has been going on and presently going is disgusting!

  • Anonymous

    Its sad…. Who’s that man(dead) and why he intended to suicide?

  • Rev. Poodlesmurf

    Jon Spangler is spreading false information again!

  • DHL

    D’Orazi was put into the AFD Chief position last week sometime. Fisher is out. I’m guessing this is GilBonTam political move, to strengthen their unfounded vote later this month to approve the IAFF contract. Every other city is working with Fire to reduce the costs to the city, to join Fire with other cities or county services in order to maintain services and reduce costs. But our City? ha. She’s keeping Fire in-house despite the horrific underperformances (suicide, crude oil, FISC fire) that have harmed thousands of her residents. The AFD has proven they are unwilling (crude oil transfer/spill; suicide) to do their job or protecting us and unable (FISC fire). Yet we continue to pay them the big bucks to risk their lives…oh, right…they don’t get their boots wet. They are paid big bucks to underperform, at their whim, not ours! If we move Fire to County, guess what? They will have contemporary protocols to work by, and folks, that will save a lot of lives and protect us from wholly unnecessary pollution that will cause illness and suffering (what?! you don’t think the 50,000 SF of friable asbestos that landed in our yards isn’t going to cause you and yours a health issue later down the line?!)

  • Anon

    Jon Spangler and John Knox White are also known to GilBontam as Lucius and Draco Malfoy.

  • hobnob

    Karen – I wasn’t there, I didn’t know this happened until reading the news the following day.

    A kite surfer went out to check on him. There were police and fire fighters already there at the shore. As a spectator and a civilian, we are taught that if you’re in need of help, you call Police and Fire fighters, it’s their job and training to rescue people. So if you were there, wouldn’t you expect that they’d do something? Why would you try to do something if there were 6+ proper authorities already there?

    This man didn’t have to die – after standing there for 45 minutes watching the people on the shore.

    Also, if you’re so worried about policy and being sued – that’s says one thing about the American culture of frivilous lawsuits and another thing about what Alameda Police and Firefighters objectives and priorities really are.

    As a person who pays their taxes and all the parcel taxes that come along with it. I have been fortunate enough not to have to have used any services, whether it be hospital, police, firefighters. I understand the value of these things and that they should be funded. But I’m completely in disbelief and completely appauled… No police or firefighter had the decency to talk to the guy? Talk to him on the bull horn if need be.

    I’ll say it again, if I was a spectator, why would I try and circumvent the police and firefighters, I’d be worried about getting in their way of an attempt at rescue or handling the situation, making the situation worse.

    The fact that the chief is blaming policy and the city is now funding the water rescue training. EAT your bad PR, this is real egg on your face. You needed a man to die (just b/c a man is suicidal doesn’t mean he should be left for dead) before you figured out water based rescues was critical training for a city that is an island. GOD FORBID WE EVER HAVE A TSUNAMI B/C I GUESS EVERY RESIDENT IN ALAMEDA THAT SURVIVED THE EARTHQUAKE WOULD PROBABLY DIE DUE TO NO HELP AVAILABLE.

    How can Alameda be a sleepy town and great to live in if you can’t even depend on the decency and human compassion of the people you hire and look up to to save your life or give a rats ass when someone is in distress?

  • smart voter

    I would like to know if our new fire chief is collecting a pension as a retired firefighter. As our new Interim Fire Chief he will most likely get a six figure salary plus benefits.

    Reading in today’s Alameda Sun, the department will focus on ” highly professional services ” , including preventive services! How come they could not prevent this unfortunate mans death ? Where was Mike D’Orazi on Monday , when this incident happened ? Was he consulted and did he instruct his men to stay out of the water? The same goes for the Chief of Police. All involved in this tragedy should be put on unpaid leave until and a thorough investigation by our Mayor and City Council has been done.

  • Karen

    Hobnob –

    I don’t want to argue about this, but…

    I believe in civilian participation. If police, etc. were doing nothing, I would certainly help out and would have gone in the water after that guy. I could never stand there and watch someone drown, no matter what official personnel were there. I have a responsibility as a human being and citizen of this planet.

    It’s part of the problem that people won’t participate. To stand by and do nothing when someone is dying is tantamount to murder.

  • notmayberry

    Hobnob=why do you think I call myself “notmayberry”?
    smart voter=I would not trust an investigation by Gilmore, Bonta, Tam; since per public campaign donation records,they were bought & paid for by the FF’s. Alameda’s small-town character puts it in grave danger of being churned by opportunists for money. We’re national news now;we need national investigative reporting. Maybe there’s a Pulitzer in it. Since someone died, this story should be as big as Bell,CA’s CM scandal.

  • smart voter


    On second thought, you are absolutely correct on the Mayor and Council, was it not the Fire Fighters that played a major role in getting them elected? What a mess we have here in Alameda, we are being talked about all over the US and not in a positive way.
    No matter how you look at it, this tragedy happened on Gilmore, Bonta watch and they will have to take full responsibility for it.
    Stop blaming budget cuts and department policy , we have seen people do amazing heroic acts saving fellow citizens and many of them where not trained professionals.
    I wonder, how can our highly payed Police and Firefighters live with the fact, that they did nothing to save a live. Shame on them , it leaves a black and ugly mark on the whole community.

  • hobnob

    Karen – I don’t want to argue about it either. But I definitely raise my glass to you to be one of the few civilians that would participate. Not everyone is built that way, as I said, I’m not built to do that if I saw police and firefighters.

    But I guess that’s what separates the ordinary from the extrodinary.

    smart voter – I agree 100% about blaming budget cuts… why didn’t someone just talk to him? maybe he just needed someone to show they cared or a stranger to speak to? You don’t have to rescue him, just talk to him.

  • Aaron J

    Jon Spangler is an embarrassment and a cold hearted man. I don’t see how anybody can defend the Fire/Police and yet he’s going around posting the same drivel on every site. I would like to see him rationalize all of this to the dead man’s mother.

  • anon

    D’Orazi is not only a retired Fire Ast. Chief, but the former head of the Firefighters Union.

    They can blame training and Alameda’s lack of funding for discontinuing water rescue in 2009, all they want. Two points:
    (1) Swimming and lifeguarding have been taught at Franklin and Lincoln pools free for many years;
    (2) One doesn’t need to be retrained every 2 years to remember how to swim or lifeguard.

    Claiming a loss of funding for training in 2009 as a justification for watching a man die sucks.

    This has reached the level of a national disgrace and our “leaders” have only themselves and the unions that have extracted bankrupting levels of salary, while putting these very same leaders in office are to blame.

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