The family of an 11-year-old girl who died of an asthma attack has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NYPD following an officer’s refusal to help the child during the incident. Briana Ojeda’s mother saw her daughter was having an attack and drove her to the hospital to get help. On the way, she drove the wrong way down a one-way street, and was pulled over by officer Alfonso Mendez. When Briana’s mother explained the situation, she says the officer “smirked” and commented that he didn’t know CPR. Briana died later that day, and her mother contends that the delay and the officer’s refusal to help caused her daughter’s death.
The case touches on a number of issues that have come up in recent months. For example, the Supreme Court consistently has ruled that emergency services personnel are under no legal obligation to provide aid. They may act entirely on their own discretion, and have no burden to act if they elect not to. On the other hand, Ojeda’s case has raised awareness that while the NYPD requires its officers to test and train on firearms several times throughout the year, there is no requirement that they be certified in CPR.
The Ojedas and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz have proposed a draft of legislation that would change this state of affairs significantly. In short, “Briana’s Law” would require police officers to certify in lifesaving techniques as often as they train in firearms proficiency. In addition, the law would make it a criminal offense for officers to fail to render aid in a lifesaving situation. This could have more implications than merely requiring officers to render CPR during an asthma attack — it directly challenges previous rulings that officers have no burden to act, and could lead to measurable reform of the current system.