Fire Law Podcast – Episode 1 Discipline For Off Duty Conduct – Riverside, Illinois

Can fire officers be disciplined for not supervising subordinates while off duty? Attorney Patrick Walsh joins me to discuss a suit he filed two weeks ago in Cook County, Illinois challenging the discipline of four firefighters for an altercation last December after a Christmas party.

The case raises a number of troubling questions: what off-duty behavior can personnel be disciplined for; what is the obligation of an officer to supervise subordinates while off-duty; does a firefighter have a right to a hearing when being disciplined; what is conduct unbecoming; does a firefighter have a right to counsel when being disciplined; what happens when discipline is used for retaliation and targeted discipline; and many closely related topics.

Patrick Walsh is an attorney in Chicago, Illinois who represents five firefighters from Riverside, Illinois who were disciplined following an altercation in a bar called the Sweet Spot. The altercation occurred after a Christmas party and primarily involved one firefighter, although a second firefighter and three lieutenants were also present.

The Riverside Fire Department disciplined all five members, terminating the firefighter who was directly involved in the altercation, suspending another firefighter for 21 days, and suspending the three lieutenants for three days each.

Here is a copy of the complaint Patrick filed. Bensfield Complaint Filed and Summons

Listen here as we discuss the case or download the podcast from iTunes.

If for some reason the podcast will not play, try this link to iTunes:

Fire Law’s Inaugural Podcast: With this podcast we will be launching a new way to share information on law suits, disciplinary matters and liability concerns with the fire service. Please subscribe to the podcasts either in iTunes, Libsyn or via Feedburner.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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