Chief Speaks Out on Firefighters' Facebook Controversy

By Jackie Bensen
|  Wednesday, May 15, 2013  |  Updated 10:02 AM EDT
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D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe speaks on the five firefighters who are on desk duty after one of them posted a picture critical of D.C. police on Facebook and four others commented on it.

D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe speaks on the five firefighters who are on desk duty after one of them posted a picture critical of D.C. police on Facebook and four others commented on it.

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D.C. Firefighters Put on Desk Duty

Five D.C. firefighters are on desk duty while officials investigate a Facebook posting after one of the firefighters was ticketed by D.C. police, Jackie Bensen reports.
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D.C. Fire and EMS put five firefighters on desk duty after one of them posted a picture critical of D.C. police on Facebook and four others commented on it.

After a D.C. police officer wrote a traffic ticket for a firefighter, that firefighter took a picture of the officer walking toward his cruiser and posted it on his Facebook page with a comment to the effect of "This is why we should be careful and take our time getting to incident scenes," sources told News4.

The post is said to be so inflammatory it was brought directly to the attention of both Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Top D.C. fire and police officials viewed those comments as a reference to the March incident in which a D.C. motorcycle officer waited 20 minutes after being struck by a hit-and-run driver before being transported to a hospital by an ambulance from Prince George’s County.

“We are a public safety agency and we cannot at any time imply or intentionally render less than the best care we can,” Ellerbe told News4. “It’s something we can’t ignore. We can’t turn a blind eye to that.”

D.C. fire immediately transferred those five firefighters from the field to desk duty.

“Right now it’s in the investigation phase,” said Ed Smith, of the firefighter union. “Hopefully they’ll be back to duty soon, and then we’ll have to deal with any disciplinary proceedings if there are any depending on the outcome of the investigation.”

The temporary reassignment of that many firefighters affects staffing levels, Smith said.

“Having these members off the street on desk duty definitely adds to the overtime problem and other members getting relief from duty,” he said.

The post was removed from the firefighter’s Facebook page.

Follow Jackie Bensen on Twitter at @jackiebensen

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