by Victor Lopez
ODESSA--A national survey found that more than half the states, including Texas, do not have laws that ban sex offenders from working as EMT's. Officials with the Odessa College EMS and Fire Technology Department say a law like this is long overdue.
"You don't want anybody with this type of a background in the back of an ambulance, taking care of a patient," Department Chair, LeeDon Martin, said.
With 36 years experience as a paramedic, Martin says they do everything thing possible to screen prospective EMS students, "We do a background check before the semester starts. Once that application clears, they complete the class and they make an application to the Texas Department of State Health Services."
Students also have a second chance to come clean, if there's anything questionable in their past. Even so, sometimes someone might slip through the cracks and get licensed, and that doesn't sit well with some students.
"It makes me very uncomfortable, to think that I could be in the back of the ambulance, working with someone who is a registered sex offender," Cipriano Saywer said.
Given the nature of their work, EMT's routinely have to strip patients down, exposing thier bodies. According to instructor Stephen Berry, "As an EMS professional, they're going to have access to children and unconscious patients and the temptation for an incident to occur or reaccur, with that kind of individual, is going to be there."
Most of those NewsWest 9 talked to were shocked to find there were no restrictions on who could apply to be an EMT. "I did not know that being a sex offender did not limit you from participating in this career field," Berry said.
Something Martin says, won't happen at Odessa College, "We would not allow a student like that in our program."