Indiana Wrestles With What To Do With Firefighter Sex Offender

Today’s burning question: Should a firefighter with a history of child exploitation and possession of child pornography be allowed to continue in the fire service? Would it matter if the incidents occurred over 15 years ago, the man served his sentence, and has remained an active firefighter the entire time?

Answer: According to the Indiana Board of Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education, the answer to both questions is a resounding no. However, the final decision will likely end up in the hands of an Indiana judge.

The case involves Sellersburg Deputy Fire Chief John Cline, who pled guilty to felony child exploitation and misdemeanor possession of child pornography back in 2001. Since completing his sentence he has remained out of trouble, and was elected as a deputy chief three times by his colleagues.

On Monday, the Board of Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education voted unanimously to revoke Cline’s firefighter certifications. Members of the board cited the lack of a requirement that firefighters report felonies as a loophole that must be addressed going forward.

The IndyStar quoted the board’s decision as saying:

  • “This type of reprehensible behavior by members of the fire service damages the image of the institution as a whole, and undermines the people’s confidence in it.
  • “Should a parent have to concern themselves with whether the firefighter who carries their child from a burning building has done something inappropriate?
  • “Who wants a convicted felon teaching their child about fire safety at a day care center or school, where access to children is unfettered?”

The ruling was not the first by the board in Cline’s case. In 2014 the board similarly voted to revoke his certifications, but that decision was vacated by an administrative law judge.

The board granted Cline a stay of 30 days to file an appeal.

More on the story.

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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