Online Photos Spark Investigations in Two Departments

Two stories in the news this week have prompted investigations in their respective fire departments looking into inappropriate behavior of firefighters. Both cases would probably have been non-issues had it not been for the fact that certain photos found their way online.

One case involves internet photos of Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s face on a roll of toilet paper and Fire Chief James Clack’s face in a toilet bowl.  The photos have sparked a number of things:

  • Accusations against Baltimore Firefighters Local 734 union president Rick Hoffman that he allowed the images to be circulated without condemnation and what’s more, suspended another union official for informing city officials of the photos
  • An official fire department investigation into the matter
  • A protest of sorts by some union members against the union
  • A public apology by President Hoffman and condemnation of the photos

More on the story.

The second case involves the questionable behavior of several Jacksonville, Florida firefighters who took part in a fundraiser event held at the Whiskey River nightclub to support the family of a firefighter who died while off duty.

The firefighters, wearing turnout gear, engaged in racy (some allege lewd) behavior during the event.

The Jacksonville Fire Rescue started an internal investigation after photos of the event appeared online. JFRD policies prohibits firefighters from wearing anything that identifies themselves as a firefighter in a place that sells alcoholic beverages, unless they’re working in a city capacity.

More on the story.

Jacksonville follow-up:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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