Police in hot water after failing to save girl from suicide
Published: Dec 06, 2020 08:18 PM Updated: Dec 06, 2020 11:22 PM

Photo: screenshot of video

Four police officers in East China are in hot water after a 17-year-old girl jumped into a river and drowned in their sight, despite efforts to dissuade her, which triggered public discussion about the role of the police in the case.

In response to online comments accusing the four police of inaction and neglect, the public security organs of Wangjiang county, Anhui Province, replied in a media briefing on Saturday that their police officers did not leave the girl to die. The police officers cannot swim but they still tried their best to save the girl. 

In a video clip posted online, the police are seen standing on the shore, while the girl suddenly jumps into the deep water. 

Some netizens said that the police,  who were regarded  as "unprofessional" because they did not bring any life-saving equipment, were just two meters away and didn't do enough to save her. 

Others argued that police officers aren't superhuman, and it would cause another tragedy if they had jumped into the river. 

The topic garnered more than 200 million views on Sina Weibo as of press time.  

The Wangjiang public security bureau's statement on Friday said that the police were suspended for a thorough investigation. The reason why the girl committed suicide remains unknown, said the police. 

"None of the four police officers know how to swim. A SWAT police officer was also present. Although he could not swim he dived into the water," the local police authority said. 

Online videos showed police officers were hand in hand trying to save the girl but they pulled back as water reached their waists. 

"It is not a must that every police officer can swim, but dispatching police officers who have basic rescue capabilities such as swimming is the responsibility of the police stations when they receive such a report," Liu Changsong, a Beijing-based lawyer, told the Global Times. 

Police stations must set up pre-emergency response plans for similar accidents, otherwise they will be suspected of dereliction of duty, Liu said.

"A rescue that did not save the life is a failure," commented Changanjian, a We-media account affiliated with the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

It also said that when the facts are unclear, passing judgment without the facts will only harm rescuers. 

"On-site rescue is often the most dangerous, costly and uncertain one… If things have reached the point where they decide to give up their lives, then the probability of failing the rescue will be doubled," it wrote.

Some connected the event to the good deed of Stephen Ellison, the newly appointed British Consul General in Chongqing, who saved a drowning woman at a scenic spot in the Southwest China city on November 14. The diplomat later said he was able to save the woman because crowds gave a helping hand by offering him a lifebuoy.

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