I witnessed three of the best, and learned firsthand about two of the worst, of Franklin County on the same day last week. Demonstrated were the good, the bad and the ugly.

The ambulance crew and support personnel who gently and caringly responded to a familiar 911 address were professional and expert. They kept the emotional and physical well-being of the patient at the forefront, and made sure the hospital destination was the correct one for the myriad ills this patient suffers. To you men, thank you for sharing your service and compassion with those who need critical and emergency help. We are richer because you are here to help us.

Then, sadly, later that night, there was the ugly side of Franklin County. Domestic abusers are everywhere and here is no exception. But when the 911 officer came in response to the local victim’s frightened call, there was a friendly connection with the abuser clearly displayed by the officer. The abuser was inappropriately allowed to shadow the still-terrified victim from room to room, intimidating, threatening, promising love and making it nearly impossible to gather even a few personal items from a dresser that belonged to the victim. Instead of making the victim aware of rights, calling for support counseling, advising of available resources and ensuring that something as simple as work uniforms, underwear and a toothbrush could be safely packed and removed from the house in the emergency, the victim was left further victimized by the public caretaker’s insensitivity and forced to use a dollar store that night to replace basic personal items.

For the patient in a health crisis, there was a happy ending as treatment was begun and the magic of medicine seemed successful once again. But for the abuse victim, the victim’s salaries that had been deposited in a joint household account had already been drained from the bank, leaving that victim penniless. Personal items and furniture seemed to be unrecoverable from a house guarded by the abuser. Stalking began later as the abuser attempted to intercept the frightened victim in familiar places.

This is a story told too often by too many, but for this victim, it was intensified by the seeming failure of the law enforcement official to demonstrate the best parameters of real public service and compassion to a resident very much in need. Although domestic violence calls are some of the most fearsome to law enforcement (the only policeman ever killed in the line of duty in Carrabelle, John David Patton was shot in the chest while responding to a domestic abuse call) it remains important for those public caretakers of our safety to be aware of and encouraged to inform victims of resources available in their life crisis and NEVER to let friendship interfere with their sworn duties.

Mel Kelly