New Jersey EMTs Escape Scrutiny of Background Checks


Robert Melia Jr.'s arrest in April 2008 drew international headlines, and for good reason: He was a New Jersey police officer indicted on charges of sexually assaulting three young girls, and engaging in a sex act with several cows, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. But when the Moorestown cop renewed his certification as an emergency medical technician that fall, he checked “no” in the box asking whether he had ever been charged with a crime, and nobody questioned it. It took another two years before the health department suspended EMT privileges for Melia, who was convicted of sexual abuse and other crimes four months ago. And the state's action came only after a member of the public alerted officials.

In New Jersey, EMTs and people applying to become emergency responders are not required to undergo criminal background checks — the only emergency health professional that escapes this kind of scrutiny. State health officials and ambulance companies say only a fraction of New Jersey's nearly 29,000 certified EMTs have committed crimes or violations that would jeopardize their status. But some health care advocates and lawmakers want a tougher law, saying New Jerseyans don't realize the people answering a call for help and entering their home might not be properly vetted. Over the past dozen years, the state disciplined 104 EMTs or EMT impersonators.

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