Small Government Disgrace! – Yahoo News: Fire/Police crews watch a man drown

Has it seriously come to this? Are we so morally and economically bankrupt that safety personnel would watch a man drown and make excuses for it? That appears to be the case, and it makes me sick.

According to Yahoo News, a man waded into the San Francisco Bay to commit suicide and drowned as fire and police officers (and a crowd of 75 people) watched him die. The first excuse from Mike D’Oranzo, a fire department official, was that budget policies and lack of equipment were the reasons they didn’t take action.  Then Alameda Police Lt. Sean Lynch blamed it on the man and his intent to die.

I’m paraphrasing but the police officer cosigned saying, “Hey. The officers did the right thing. The guy was obviously taking his own life.  Plus, he could have been violent or on drugs or something.” I wasn’t there. But this is a disgrace — especially coming from those who are supposed to protect and serve.  Saving lives (and even preventing suicides) is their job! Reminds me of those firefighters in TN who sat back and watched a house burn to the ground.

The good news is the San Fransisco Bay community didn’t buy it, and made that known at a hearing this week. The local council agreed to spend the meager $40,000 needed for training and equipment. A man’s life could have been saved that day, and his family could have helped him get mental health assistance. Instead, they are mourning his loss.  Here are my take-aways.

This is what small government looks like! What kind of policy overrides a sense of humanity and an oath to protect and serve? Small government policies, I suppose.  State and local budgets are slim. Policy makers have cut funding for family planning, the mentally ill, children and the unemployed while conservatives fight tooth and nail to protect tax cuts for the the rich. This incident is just a snapshot of what happens when a government and its people have no compassion. At the end of the day, the police and fire departments did nothing and neither did the crowd of 75 people.  Will this happen again? Maybe.

Tough times are hardest on the most vulnerable. More and more people are suffering these days. Sadly, some lose hope. The police officer’s comments  represented a general indifference to the needs of a man in a mental health crisis but, to a larger extent, someone who needed his government’s assistance to live. These days, the strong are indifferent to the suffering of the the so-called weak.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the rage and hostility displayed when this poor guy with Parkinson’s Disease was demonstrating for health care reform (VIDEO).  If that’s not heartless, I don’t know what is. But sadly, it’s a sign of the times and a departure from the days when Americans cared about one another.

At the end of the day, that man deserved an opportunity to get help. It is estimated that close to one million people make a suicide attempt each year, yet there were 34,000 deaths by suicide in 2007.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), more than 90 percent of those who kill themselves suffer from a range of  treatable disorders, including depression. Those considering or even attempting suicide are not lost causes. They deserve respect and an opportunity to be saved.  But then again, mental health care costs money,  just like fire and police services.

This, my friends, is the disgrace of small government.  The vulnerable are left to fend for themselves — and potentially die. Not a pretty picture, if you ask me.


  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – more information about suicide and prevention, you can go to AFSP’s website at and can access information on what do do here.
  • Center for Budget and Policy Priorities – Progressive information and analysis on the current budget crisis can be found at where you can also access specific information on the recession and poverty.
  • National League of Cities provide policy information on how localities are managing this budget crisis. Visit their website at
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