Medical amnesty should alleviate police fear

Carly Besser/The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.

Carly Besser/The News

Carly Besser/The News

In a college town, the scenario of a student binge drinking to the point of danger is not unheard of.

Sometimes students are forced to make a difficult decision – whether or not to call for help in that situation.

Medical amnesty, a Kentucky Revised Statute that provides immunity from prosecution to students who call police for medical assistance, should have us all making the decision to call police faster in times of emergency.

When a student is overdosing on alcohol, time is critical.

The more quickly we ask, the better the chances are that the individual will be safe and out of harm’s way. However, fear of police and punishment from parental sanctions have us hesitating to make the call.

Murray’s public opinion on alcohol faced a dramatic shift in the past calendar year.

Our overwhelming support of legalized packaged liquor sales make alcohol-related emergencies a reality – especially for the students at this University.

Alcohol-related crime in Murray has quintupled since the decision to legalize packaged liquor in 2012.

This statistic should require us to be more cautious and educated about the laws that protect us.

Despite medical amnesty favoring the rights of students, it only provides reprieve from alcohol-related charges.

The law’s intention is to prioritize safety, so it should provide amnesty in all emergencies where we try to save ourselves or someone else no matter what.

The fact that this law doesn’t protect students who have been taking dangerous quantities of illegal drugs is alarming because illegal drug abuse is also a prominent issue on college campuses.

We should also be thinking about the safety of drug users despite the deviance of their criminal behavior.

Our system is either in denial that drug use is a problem, or it is reluctant because including illegal drugs to the law would seem to encourage illegal drug use.

Either way, drug users should also have their safety prioritized over the decision of whether or not to arrest.

The role of police officers is not only to arrest and convict every student they encounter. Officers are employees of the community and their span of responsibility goes far beyond arresting, detaining and writing traffic tickets – it is also their job to protect us.

Officers are forced to make the best decision in a short amount of time because both crimes and emergencies refuse to wait.

If a student’s life is in danger, an officer’s primary duty is to make sure all parties are protected and safe. Prosecution, if necessary, will eventually follow.

Even if charges were involved in a situation where someone needed medical help, students should stop putting themselves before the safety of others.

Despite the law’s passing, students can still face punishment from the University, such as alcohol-safety courses and public service. Is not calling police to get out of a small punishment worth risking the life of someone else?

Similar to the officer responding to the call, we have discretion and we should use it to make the best decision possible.

The name ‘Public Safety’ should remind us that our safety will always be put first.

We should make it a personal responsibility to call police when a fellow student is in danger.