After Officials Watch Man Drown, California City Changes Response Policy Alameda, Calif., rescue personnel remained onshore while a man stood in icy water, apparently waiting to die. The firefighters said they were prohibited from rescuing people in the water. Police said they feared he would become violent. Residents said they were outraged.
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After Officials Watch Man Drown, City Changes Policy

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After Officials Watch Man Drown, City Changes Policy

After Officials Watch Man Drown, City Changes Policy

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

In Alameda, California, an island city just east of San Francisco, residents are demanding answers. They want to know why a man drowned at a city beach in full view of police and firefighters. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike D'Orazi says a policy in place since 2009 forbids his firefighters from rescuing people in the water.

NORRIS: Previously we had a very highly trained water rescue program that we could use for both shore-based, boat-based and surf-water rescue. But unfortunately over the course of several years, based from what I can gather on budget issues, they pretty much decertified the program.

GONZALES: Last night the Alameda City Council received an earful from incredulous residents such as Adam Gillit.

NORRIS: This just strikes me as not just a problem with funding but a problem with the culture of what's going on in our city, that no one would take the time to help this drowning man.

GONZALES: Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore says the city will implement immediately a new policy allowing an on-scene commander to decide how to respond to water distress calls.

NORRIS: This was a really tragic incident. We can't go back and change what happened. We can't defend what happened. What we can do is we can move forward and make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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