Commentary: Department's Finest Hour?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 10, 2006

LaToya Palmer was in the middle of premature labor when a Sacramento sheriff's deputy stopped her and her boyfriend for running a red light as they raced to an emergency room early one morning last December. One of her twins had already emerged from Palmer's womb. He was lying in a in a pool of blood, gasping for air.

The couple say they begged the deputy to escort them to the hospital, less than two miles away, but the deputy refused, curtly informing them that wasn't his job. He waved them on, warning them not to run any more lights. Both twins born that morning, died.

When first questioned about this incident, the brass at the sheriff's department raised doubts about whether it took place at all. They said they could find no record of the stop. A month later department officials changed their story. The stop did take place, they said, but their officer did nothing wrong. Department rules barred him from providing escort. But he did offer to call an ambulance, an offer the couple refused.

Palmer disputes that. "I was screaming for help," she said. "He didn't care and treated me like a piece of trash."

Sheriff's officials may be right. Maybe their deputy did nothing wrong. But clearly, this was not our sheriff's department's finest hour.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.