“I cried when I saw the footage. I am a human being you know.”
The poignant words of 23 year old Bridget Mongan, as she explained her hurt at being left in a bus layby by members of the PSNI on St Patrick’s Day in Derry.
And she’s right. She may have been too drunk to move herself on the day in question, but it is absolutely inexcusable for police officers to leave anyone in that state on a pavement, alone and vulnerable, never mind in the path of buses.
This story, tragic as it is, could have been much worse. Footage, taken on a mobile phone, shows a bus slowing down just after the PSNI have driven off. Had that bus driver not seen her, she could have been seriously injured or killed. She could have been attacked, beaten, raped, or robbed. She was clearly unable to defend herself if such a circumstance arose. She explained later how incapacitated she was. “I don’t remember how I ended up lying on the road. I dont remember a whole lot…”
The Police Ombudsman has confirmed it is investigating the incident, and the officers in question will no doubt be questioned regarding the circumstances.
The footage is clear. Whatever the reason, a 23 year old vulnerable woman was left in a dangerous place. Bridget, speaking to the BBC, believes that the officers in question should lose their jobs. “I am an alcoholic and I’m not proud of it but what they did to me on Monday was unacceptable.”
Alcoholism is a terrible addiction, and we are used to seeing drunk people in cities around the country. How many of us have seen the alcoholic in the street, and have crossed to the other side to get away? How many of us feel uncomfortable when our children are with us and a street drinker asks us for loose change? How many turn up our noses? We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. You could be forgiven for thinking, though, that having seen someone dumped on the road – frankly – like a sack of potatoes, that someone would have come to this young womans aid more quickly. Is it too much to ask that those employed in jobs, and given training in how to deal with vulnerable people, would give those very people due care and attention in the course of their policing duties?
We need to remember that people with alcohol problems have names. They live, and breathe like we do. And they have feelings too. We dont know what was going through the police officers’ heads that day, but we can assume, having seen the footage, that Bridget was not treated with the dignity that she deserves as a human being, regardless of her undiginfied state at the time.
She deserved to be cared for, and looked after, like any other person. Would the officers, or anyone else have left someone with a head injury in a bus layby and simply driven off? Or a person who had taken a heart attack? No. But, because Bridget Mongan was under the influence of alcohol, it is likey those who didnt come to her aid made both an asumption, and a judgement that spending time with her insuring she was ok was not a priority.
It was her alcoholism that was seen and judged. Rather than view her as a 23 year old vulnerable woman, police clearly saw an alcoholic who wasnt worth the extra seconds it would have taken to simply move her onto the pavement or to another place of safety.
When this society, and those whose job it is to protect them, start to view people as people – before their surrounding issues overtake that view – then people like Bridget Mongan will be treated like the human beings they are. She, and they, deserve nothing less.