A county emergency medical technician was released from jail on his own recognizance yesterday after he was charged with slapping in the face a 12-year-old girl who he said had spit at him, county police said.
Michael L. Swain, 44, of Finksburg was charged with assault and battery. He has been suspended without pay pending an investigation by the Fire Department, said Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells, a senior department spokesman.
The incident marks the first time a county Fire Department employee has been accused of abusing a patient, officials said.
The girl was treated at North Arundel Hospital for a facial bruise, officials said. It is unclear whether the girl was hospitalized.
"To slap somebody is inappropriate," Chief Sheckells said. "It is not an acceptable form of medical treatment."
The incident occurred shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, when police called an ambulance to the 1700 block of Richfield Drive in Severn to take the girl to North Arundel Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Transporting nonemergency cases is not a part of firefighters' regular duties. The ambulance crew agreed to do it because police told them that the girl -- whom police did not identify -- had been biting and spitting and was too unruly to be put into a patrol car, officials said.
Emergency medical technicians took a stretcher into the house, and the girl's family picked her up and put her onto it, officials said. The girl was spitting into the air while the technicians were trying to restrain her, and in the commotion the girl was hit on the left side of her face, police said.
Mr. Swain "said she spit on him and attempted to bite him while he was trying to restrain her arm," Chief Sheckells said. "She pulled away, his hand slipped off and struck her in the face."
Chief Sheckells said the Fire Department investigation would not be a long one and could result in an administrative hearing.
Mr. Swain, who has held his job for six years and has a clean record, could be fired if found guilty, Chief Sheckells said.
"We do not condone any aggressive behavior toward any patient," Chief Sheckells said.