Rochester / Albany, N.Y. --- There is a renewed effort underway to pass a law in Albany that would increase penalties for those convicted of violent attacks on emergency responders.
Last year the New York State Senate passed such legislation by a 59-0 vote but the Assembly failed to even bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
The bill was called “Mark’s Law” and was named after EMT Mark Davis from Cape Vincent in the North Country. In 2009 Davis was shot and killed in the line of duty. The legislation proposed in his name would add all emergency responders to the 1st Degree Murder statute that currently only law enforcement officers are covered under. If convicted of 1st Degree Murder a person serves life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"It would seem like an absolute no-brainer,” said Paramedic Darrell Grigg of Monroe Ambulance. “These people who we go out everyday and put our lives on the line to help, there should be no hesitation as to passing this law."
In twenty years as a paramedic Grigg says he’s been stabbed once and assaulted numerous times. Despite best practices and constantly keeping a watchful eye out for potential danger Grigg says one can never be too safe.
"Unfortunately it always has to be in the back of your mind," Grigg said. "When a police officer is assaulted it's a very serious matter and should be exactly the same standard for firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s."
Assault and lesser crimes are not covered under the past legislation. Assemblyman Joe Morelle (D – Irondequoit) said he doesn’t think that expanding the current bill to include those statutes will be an immediate priority.
"We'll look at whether or not additional protections are necessary, whether appropriate, whether there's an appetite to do them now or to continue to look at that over the next few months to see if additional legislation might be needed," Morelle said of expanding the bill.
That issue aside, Morelle said he’s optimistic he can rally the votes needed in the Assembly to pass a new version of “Mark’s Law” in this session. For better or for worse, he said the tragic events involving West Webster Firefighters last month is likely to provide the political pressure needed to compel any holdouts.
“Like many things we tend to sometimes we be reactive," Morelle said. “Tragically in this case I'm not sure it would've made any difference, I'm not sure that someone could argue that had the law been in place that the individual who did the killings here would've been motivated by that. Nonetheless, we have put these additional protections in place for police officers and parole officers and others who find themselves while in the line of duty in danger and it seems to me entirely appropriate that first responders be added to the list.”