Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?We have talked in the past about the importance of doing personal background checks on firefighter and EMT applicants. Most, but not all, municipalities are pretty thorough with it when it comes to hiring employees, firefighters on the payroll. But we have seen that in some areas the personal-integrity standards are being relaxed for volunteer applicants because of a paucity of new members who want to join. Some VFD’s are having trouble turning out a full crew most of the time and are eager to take on anyone who shows up and appears willing to help out.
In the past few years we have seen many instances where this easing of standards has damaged the FD and led to the citizens losing their trust and respect for the department. These incidents have involved not just criminal behavior of the members, but in some instances a glaring lack of moral integrity that stains the entire department.
This predicament usually happens because either the department has never done background checks before, or the expense of getting one is too much to carry and they are willing to take a chance. Or at least, that’s the excuse they give.
Yesterday a report was broadcast on Atlanta, Georgia, tv station WAGA-TV about a small town in Henry County, McDonough, that did everything on the entire list wrong. The city administrator and the fire chief took in a county jail trustee in a sort of work-release program and allowed him to attend emergencies and public events, helping out and representing the fire department. Outwardly, they did it as a measure of compassion helping this man to be rehabilitated and work his way back to being a productive citizen. But they never did a background check on him. He is a convicted felon.
As you can imagine, things just went downhill for the fire department after a while. Take a few minutes and watch this video report on this case lesson. Watch it all the way to the end because there are two real surprises that pop up after you think you’ve heard it all. Then after you’ve seen it, I’ll toss in my two cents worth.
(go to http://firegeezer.com/ to see the link)
It is obvious that these well-meaning people were duped by a career criminal who has perfected the art of confidence deception, what is known as a “con man.” Listening to him tell the reporter how well-intentioned he was and how he is eager to help people, etc., etc., you can easily feel that he is truly sincere. But if you take the time to talk to anybody in law enforcement or the penal system, they will tell you that the prisons are filled with people who can come across just as sincerely as this man’s performance was for the tv cameras. The McDonough city authorities should have been already on their guard by knowing that he is a criminal. But they listened to his tale instead of being prudent and checking him out.
They were so anxious to utilize his services that they never even bothered to get him properly trained and state-certified as a volunteer firefighter. The state regulations require vol. members to become certified within one year of their joining, but this basic requirement was ignored. As you watch the video story unfold, you will see several other violations of caution that led to this ultimate end of the program. The city officials became so engrossed in their own self-esteem of “giving somebody a chance” and thus feeling better about themselves, that they blindly put their trust into this career criminal and ignored the fact that the public is always putting its trust in the city and the FD. They have now violated that trust and it will be hard to repair it. Especially once the citizens learned about the guns.
If somebody wants to give a convict a 2nd-chance at becoming a good citizen, then I say fine, take one home with you and give him the opportunity to prove himself with your personal property. But fire and EMS people are being thrust into other people’s homes and we are obligated to make sure that our members can be trusted by these people who have called us for help.
There is another point that is mentioned only briefly in the video. The jail trustee was filling a position that has been budgeted for a paid firefighter. It makes you wonder about what the true motives are for this decision. When you decide to accept somebody as a member of your department, for whatever reason or need, it is imperative to find out just who they really are.
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11-05-2009, 07:49 AM #1
Another reason to do background checks..."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
11-05-2009, 08:08 AM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2009
- SW Missouri
11-05-2009, 09:27 AM #3
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
WOW! I'm speechless
The City Administrator seemed like a cantankerous old fart that was only worried about saving a buck as opposed to putting the propper people in uniform. I'm surprised thier local wasn't having a fit about this, being that he was filling a paid position.
11-05-2009, 12:16 PM #4
11-05-2009, 01:43 PM #5
They should give him the chair!!IAFF
11-05-2009, 09:06 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jan 2004
I can't get the video to play but I can't say enough how important background checks are. My small department had an interesting experience that taught us this lesson.
We had a new applicant who had just moved into the district. We did our standard state background check and he came back clean. He was brought in as a rookie and started attending the rookie training program.
At this time he started talking about how he had come into some money from some financial transaction or something and the board (what board?) told him to donate it. We're talking close to a million dollars. That got peoples attention. As the deal moved forward and we started doing our due diligence, we discovered that this person was on probation for defrauding seniors in another state. If the money he wanted to donate was a way to clear his conscience or laundering we never did figure out. He ultimately went back to prison for violating the terms of his release... he had a checking account which he wasn't allowed to have.
It was a VERY strange experience. Needless to say, we now do federal background investigations and have dismissed a few candidates due to prior legal trouble (mostly DUIs).
11-06-2009, 03:31 PM #7
- Join Date
- Oct 2009
I am the member of an all volunteer department and I had to go through a state/national background check process.
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