It was apparently a customer of an In-N-Out Burger who blew the whistle on the hazing of probationary firefighters in Orange County, California. According to investigative reporter Tony Saavedra with the Orange County Register, the customer witnessed a half-dozen firefighters in uniform with some unusual haircuts that included reverse Mohawks, clumps of hair missing and a brightly painted scalp. They had arrived at the fast food joint in fire department vehicles and were assigned to Station 22 in Laguna Hills.
That complaint to Orange County Fire Authority Chief Keith Richter prompted an investigation that included consultation with the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutors declined to file assault charges in connection with two of the firefighters who were held down for their haircuts, but in the end, days off were given to 13 firefighters, six of them probies, for unprofessional conduct.
A December survey of firefighters by the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association that Saavedra wrote about in an article last week, has firefighters describing the investigation as a “witch hunt”. Here’s more from today’s article:
Firefighters in the union survey chalked the hazing up to normal camaraderie.
“What could have been handled by a simple, stern warning, turned into the biggest morale-busting waste of money I have ever seen,” said one firefighter. ”
Said another, “Similar events have happened hundreds of times.”
“We are taking appropriate measures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again at the OCFA.” (Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion)
As for the survey, which Battalion Chief Concepcion says the administration takes seriously, firefighters were quite critical of the department’s leadership in general, comparing the agency to the Titanic and accusing management of lying to the media as a way of responding to controversies.
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