Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thin Red Line (Firefighters and snitching)

Like the "Thin Blue Line" against whistleblowing, a code-of-conduct exhibited by the employees of the various Police agencies, almost all Firefighter agencies, volunteer or for-profit, engage in a similer code-of-conduct, nicknamed the "Thin Red Line". This practice gives us insight into not only how harmful or illegal incidents involving firefighters are denied, distorted and covered-up by their departments, but also how the monopolized media publicizes the denials, distortions and cover-ups regardless of the conflict of interest.
For the sake of accuracy, the following stories are part of the work of investigative journalists working for the monopolist "San Francisco Chronicle", which publishes the cover-up tactics of many agencies, regardless...

"D.A. investigates possible firefighter cover-up" 
2013-11-17 by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/D-A-investigates-possible-firefighter-cover-up-4989953.php]:
The San Francisco district attorney is investigating whether fellow firefighters tried to cover for Michael Quinn, the allegedly drunken firefighter who crashed his ladder truck into a motorcyclist in the South of Market in June.
"This is not your run-of-the-mill DUI investigation," is all the district attorney's spokesman, Alex Bastian, would say when asked about the possibility that Quinn's colleagues tried to cover up the circumstances of the crash.
Meanwhile, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White says her office is considering disciplinary action against an unspecified number of firefighters who were on duty the night of the incident.
"We are looking at if things could have gone differently, or if different decisions could have been made," Hayes-White said.
Quinn, a 23-year veteran of the department, was at the wheel of a Station 1 ladder truck when he raced through a red light at Fifth and Howard streets late June 29 on his way to what turned out to be a false alarm.
 The truck collided with a motorcyclist, throwing the rider into a fire hydrant and seriously injuring him.
 Quinn left the crash scene before police arrived about 40 minutes later and did not turn up at Station 1 a few blocks down Howard Street for several hours.
Police obtained security-camera footage that shows Quinn drinking water at the Chieftain Irish Pub at Fifth and Howard in what appeared to be an attempt to sober up before returning to the station, sources say.
 Still, after police caught up to him at the station, Quinn's blood alcohol level was measured at 0.13 percent, above the legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent, sources say. The Fire Department has a zero-tolerance policy for on-duty drinking.
Quinn was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and hit-and-run, but has yet to be charged. The D.A.'s office says the investigation isn't complete.
 Fire Department sources tell us that no fewer than 21 firefighters, paramedics and others who were on duty the night of the crash have been interviewed by police.
And at least two firefighters, besides Quinn, may face disciplinary action as well.
One is a firefighter who denied being at the Chieftain with Quinn but showed up on security-camera footage talking to him in the bar, according to sources.
 Surveillance camera footage also supposedly contradicted the statement of a department higher-up who said Quinn's ladder truck had nearly cleared the intersection safely before the crash. In fact, the light was red before Quinn reached the intersection, but his rig never slowed down, sources say.
Hayes-White said she had found no evidence of a conspiracy within the department to cover up the crash circumstances.
The chief confirmed that Quinn, who had been on administrative leave without pay since the crash, submitted his resignation Nov. 1 - just in time to avoid a formal dismissal hearing that had been scheduled for that day.
His attorney told us Friday he'd get back to us to discuss the case. We're still waiting.
Like Hayes-White, Firefighters Union President Tom O'Connor rejected the notion of an attempted cover-up.
 "Everybody on duty that night was making every effort possible to assist the police with their investigation," O'Connor said.
"In fact, they called the police once (Quinn) returned to the station."
 After our inquiry last week, Hayes-White said she spoke to District Attorney George Gasc√≥n, who told her only that prosecutors "are getting close" to a decision on whether to file charges.

"SF firefighter suspected in drunken crash may lose job" 
2013-07-22  by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross [http://blog.sfgate.com/matierandross/2013/07/22/ax-falls-on-sf-firefighter-accused-in-drunken-crash/]:
The San Francisco Fire Department is moving to terminate the firefighter who allegedly drove a ladder truck into a motorcyclist while drunk and then left the scene.
Sources tell us Chief Joanne Hayes-White sent a letter to the Fire Commission on Thursday, asking that 20-year veteran Michael Quinn — who is in rehab outside the city — be fired, even though the police investigation is continuing.
Quinn’s lawyer, James Bustamante, himself a former firefighter, called the termination move “premature” and irresponsible” given that the investigations have not even been completed.
Quinn, 43, a 23-year veteran, was arrested after the crash late June 29 at Fifth and Howard streets, in which the motorcyclist suffered busted ribs and a punctured lung. Quinn, who works at Station 1 on Folsom Street, was driving a ladder truck to what turned out to be a false alarm.
Officials say Quinn stopped the rig but then disappeared after being told that he would have to undergo a drug and alcohol test. He showed up two hours later at the station and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of felony drunken driving and hit-and-run.
Prosecutors, however, opted not to file charges for the time being and told police to do more investigating.
The affair is particularly embarrassing for the Fire Department, because drinking on the job is not a new problem at station houses. It hasn’t helped that it came just a week before at least one Fire Department rig ran over an Asiana Airlines plane crash survivor at San Francisco International Airport, though Hayes-White has so far called that “a tragic accident.”
According to law enforcement sources, Quinn was told by his captain to wait in the truck after the crash until police arrived. Instead, he walked into a nearby bar, where a security camera filmed him drinking pitchers of water before he walked away into the night, the sources said.
About two hours later, Quinn showed up back at Fire Station 1, where he was tested and found to have a blood alcohol count of 0.13 percent, above the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent – and way, way over the departments zero tolerance level, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the case.
Police have been trying to reconstruct what Quinn did during the two hours between the crash and his reappearance at Station 1. They’re expected to give their report to the district attorney on Tuesday.
Quinn could contest his firing – and may want to, because under the city’s new retirement law, he could lose his department pension.
“In no way do we want to downplay the tragedy here,” Bustamante said. “But the move to terminate firefighter Quinn is a political move by a department that has a number of active investigations pending and a command staff in near revolt.”

"No fire crews recall hitting girl"
2013-07-10 by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross [http://blog.sfgate.com/matierandross/2013/07/10/crash-victims-death-cast-shadow-over-fire-department-heroics/]:
While San Francisco police and fire heroics were on full national display, local officials were privately wrestling behind the scenes with the painful possibility that one of their own emergency crews fatally struck one of the two young Chinese girls found dead after the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed.
“We completed our procedures and interviews with everyone, and nobody has any recollection of coming into contact with the victim,’’ said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our first responders’ efforts under extraordinary circumstances,’’ the chief said.
The drivers of all five trucks that raced to the scene underwent routine drug and alcohol testing.
“All were negative,’’ Hayes-White said.
The Police Department — which is heading the accident investigation — is turning over all its results to the National Transportation Safety Board.
 Fire Lt. Christine Emmons, who was among those who emotionally described her rescue efforts at a press conference Monday, reportedly provided police investigators with an account of arriving on the scene early on to find the girl — concluding she was already dead.
It’s unclear whether the girl had been hit by a rig before Emmons’ crew arrived. Her statement has not been divulged.
 But as Hayes-White told us, “I’m hopeful the coroner’s findings indicate that the fatal injuries were sustained prior to any contact with our apparatus.’’

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