Complaints About Austin’s Peeping Lieutenant Expand

An Austin fire lieutenant who resigned in September amidst a criminal investigation into his having secretly filmed female subordinates in fire station locker rooms, is in the news again as firefighters are claiming they reported inappropriate behavior to the department years ago. Former lieutenant James William Baker, 52, was charged last week with invasive visual recording.

KXAN News is reporting that the Austin Fire Department has confirmed that the department received complaints about inappropriate behavior by Baker involving female patients in 2013, but they were treated as EMS competency investigations. As such they were investigated by the department’s medical director, and not as a disciplinary matter.

Baker, who was initially relieved of duty while the 2013 claims were investigated, was found to have met the standard of care for the patients and allowed to return to work. That prompted a fire captain to email management about additional concerns his colleagues had about his behavior.

KXAN quoted Austin Firefighters IAFF Local 975 President Bob Nicks as saying:

  • A proper investigation was never done.
  • Instead of doing an investigation on misconduct like you’d expect in this sort of thing, it was given to the Office of Medical Director to look at from a medical standpoint.
  • Of course Lt. Baker understands how to do an assessment correctly. He just was not doing one correctly on scene, according to his peers.
  • So, all the witnesses weren’t brought in and interviewed, the letters of misconduct were not provided the OMD, and all the evidence was not looked at.
  • Once he [was] pulled off, the shifts started talking among themselves and started realizing the problem was bigger than anybody thought
  • The very fact that his peers are the people that dropped a dime on him is very telling. This is not acceptable within our culture.

President Nicks said the union would support a group of female firefighters who are consulting an attorney about filing suit over the department’s mishandling of complaints about Baker. 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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