Nashville Demotes District Chief For Six Months

A Nashville district chief accused of making disparaging statements to a recruit during a training exercise last summer, has been demoted to captain for six months in part because he was not candid in answering questions during the investigation.

District Chief William Nelms was accused of making statements that were disparaging to a female recruit about her gender, her family members within the department, and the capability of certain shifts within the Nashville Fire Department. The recruit was injured during a training mishap which she claimed was malicious. Investigators determined Chief Nelms also made similar comments throughout the week.

During the course of the investigation, Chief Nelms was interviewed and denied having said anything disparaging. According to disciplinary paperwork, Chief Nelms told the investigator: “I don’t know what was said on any of that I didn’t say anything … cause I am a man without a company right now, I ride in a car by myself so I don’t know anything about that or who would have said any of that or whatever.”

Quoting from the investigative report:

“Due to the paramilitary style training, loud and/or repetitive instructions from a Fire Instructor may be part of an acceptable teaching method and is expected. However, no matter how comfortable an Instructor feels around a Recruit, any comments made towards or about a recruit, another shift or division in any way is unprofessional and inappropriate in a recruit training setting. While understanding that each instructor will have a different teaching style, expressing differences of opinion on work related matters is not appropriate in this setting. Furthermore, regardless of some people’s view that various comments were “Fire hall banter”, it is inappropriate when coming from a Chief Officer of the department. Chief Officers are held to higher standard as managers of the department and are expected to act as such.

Here is a copy of the disciplinary documentation: Nelms Discipline

WSMV News 4

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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