Jay Park was following a recently passed Georgia law extending amnesty to those who seek medical attention for others in need when he refused to arrest two underage college students who had far too much to drink.
The Georgia General Assembly passed the 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law in March 2014. Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., put his signature on the bill not long after. The bill extends amnesty to people who seek medical attention to those who may have overdosed on illegal drugs and underage individuals who were consuming alcohol.
The idea is that amnesty may save the lives of those who may have otherwise died because those who they were with were scared of being prosecuted. As of August 2015, 32 states have passed a 9-1-1 “Good Samaritan” law, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
In September 2014, Park was called to a scene where two underage female students had been drinking. The University of Georgia wrongly believed amnesty applied if the intoxicated person was the one who made the call. After speaking to state lawmakers who worked on the law and a judge, he believed the university had gross misinterpreted the law.
Park, who served for four years as a police officer for the University of Georgia, was fired for refusing to arrest two underage students who fell under the protections of Georgia’s 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law.
University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson recorded the firing of Park. “You went outside the chain of command,” Williamson told the dismissed officer. “You’re an embarrassment to this agency.”
Current and former students have petitioned Williamson to reinstate Park, without success. An online petition has gained nearly 5,000 signatures. “In the interest of preserving the safe environment within the University of Georgia community,” the petition states, “I ask that you reinstate Officer Jay Park, expunge his most recent personnel record for insubordination, and commit your officers to serving and protecting in a legal and ethical manner.”
Park, who has been unable to find work in law enforcement as a result of his firing from the University of Georgia, has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the state’s university system; the University of Georgia Police Department; and others, including Williamson.
Frankly, it’s discouraging to see so many instances of police officers getting away with abusing their authority and not face any repercussions, and finally see one who did the right thing lose his job because of it. Here’s hoping Park either wins his suit and is awarded monetary damages for the harm to his reputation.