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DC Fire & EMS cadets claim instructors sexually harassed them. Investigation underway.

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More on cadet program reinstated by department in September after long hiatus

Cadet program has troubled past: here & here

Jay Korff, WJLA-TV/ABC 7:

An exclusive ABC7 I-Team Investigation has learned that there is a looming sex scandal in the D.C. Fire Department involving female trainees.

Sources tell ABC7 numerous women are part of a formal complaint targeting the department. Two training academy instructors have been accused of harassing female cadets and sources say that harassment was sexual in nature.

Young cadets are trained by mentors who shepherd the recent high school graduates into the field of fire fighting.

But multiple sources tell ABC7 that two female cadets recently accused two training academy instructors of sexual harassment.

“A young lady was touched and told to by the official to call them daddy,” says the mother of a female cadet, who asked to not be identified for fear of retaliation. She says while her daughter was “not” harassed, other young women told her daughter about various sexual advances directed at them.

“It was alleged that they mentioned about shaking their behind, mentioning of their breasts to some of the young cadets,” she says. “These young girls, they are in a position where they have to look up to these people and they should be setting some kind of example and not preying on them.”

“There have been some allegations that have been brought forward,” Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe says to ABC7. “We have referred them to our Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor, which means that we can’t discuss it any further

Ellerbe says he takes the allegations very seriously, but believes the alleged inappropriate conduct was not sexual in nature.

“The matter made the young ladies uncomfortable and we’ve done everything we can to remove those members from the process in training them and we’ll take additional action if necessary,” Ellerbe says.

D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, as the chairman of the public safety committee, says he’s concerned that this is the first he’s hearing about these allegations.

“This is not something that I want to hear and it’s something that’s completely unacceptable, but I realize also they are allegations and there will be an investigation,” Wells says. “But in the event that it’s true it’s absolutely not acceptable. Not in our city.”

The chief says the reason his department didn’t release information about this investigation was the female cadets who brought these allegations forward asked the chief to keep the matter confidential.

But one parent told ABC7 that if these allegations prove true, some very public policy changes need to be made to make sure this never happens again.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • DCFD

    Wait, there must be a mistake here. There’s no way this sort of thing could happen in DC. I’m sure everyone involved, especially the cadets, are model employees.

  • Pipeman27

    Shining stars

    • inside looking in

      The department has been led by “shining stars” for the last 30 yrs that’s why the agency is in such great shape.

  • Fire21

    It’s happening everywhere, and I don’t have a clue what the solution might be. It just seems that evil behavior is more fun until you get caught.

  • Ron Stuart

    What do you expect uner this firechief ? He has created a culture of harassment in this fire department. He really needs to be replaced. This is not the same city it was 25 years ago.

    • Fire21

      Unfortunately this is not the same COUNTRY it was 25 years ago!

      • Doing It.

        Hell, it’s not even the same day it was yesterday.

      • xray

        Yeah and that’s a good thang

  • Anonymous

    1 adult and 2 children dead, 1 critical and the lead story today is a sex scandal…. sad statement on what society deems newsworthy.

    • dave statter

      YOu talking about or news orgranization. While we knew about the sex scandal first, we lead with the fire and followed up with the fire.

  • Ol Skool 86

    Once again this will be swept under the rug like everything else so the fire chief keeps his job.Every where else in the nation it’s unexceptable, but DC……umm we need to make policy changes? No we don’t, it’s a ZERO TOLERANCE policy last time I checked. He will send a hit squad to soften and convince those poor girls that it wasn’t sexual just like in the past cases. Unbelievable, the serious infractions are not taken serious and the minor infractions real firemen do are treated as a murder case with ridiculous consequences….when is city counsel AND THE CITIZENS gonna realize Dcfd needs a new leader..

    • Doing It.

      Maybe when da firemans learn proper gramma?

  • Dave

    Personal opinion. I am not a fan of these “Cadet programs.” Any time you introduce teenagers into the firehouse the potential for this crap is there. The normal day to day joking around, hazing and azz grabing that occurs, we can be brutal on each other just to pass the time and that behavior in just about any other environment could be considered harassment. Look some kid goes home after spending a few hours at the firehouse and tells mom and dad some stories of what happened that day, next thing you know, harrassment suit. Not saying this is the case here, sounds like a line may have been crossed, but I sure can see it happening alot more.

  • Capt Dick

    Cadet program has a troubled past ….. Understatement of the year! ( I know, it’s only Feburary) . Rube had it right didn’t he ? Program needs to be filed .

    • xray

      At Capt Dick, yes the cadet program has had some issues in the past. But overall its a successful program. The cadet program has produced Chief officers,mulitiple capts,LT,Sgts and techs.Hell the recruit classes have produced some bad appls as well,dont hear you speaking about that.Its easy to put something down that you don’t benefit from or are a part of.This department needed a cadet program for it’s failures of not granting fair opportunity to all. So Chief Ellerbe I applaud you in our efforts of reviving the program,keep up the good work


    All the instructors were doing was trying to teach them the Harlem Shake….erryones doin it…

  • Anonymous

    The Dept EEO counselor has his hands full. How about the self-admitted racial targeting of paramedics by the QA program manager?

    The irony is that the Fire Chief’s beloved cadet program is going to bite him in the butt.

  • IDLH

    Cancel the cadet program; problem solved. Demote those involved and remove their ability to teach. Simply solutions to a problem that is not DC specific, but has happened to many different departments across the US.

  • OnDaJob

    This story is an example of the many reasons why I don’t support Cadet or Junior member programs in Fire & Rescue. I understand the advantages of “growing” membership, but there are just some places children don’t belong. Even if the adult does nothing wrong and something innocent is taken the wrong way, it’s too easy to brand them as guilty before proven otherwise.

    • xray

      No the problem lies with the adults, not the kids.It is incumbent of the membership to act accordingly in the midst of civilians,newhires ect…There isn’t a problem with young members coming on the job,they just need to be mentored.A little horse play isn’t that detrimental to good order and discipline, BUT somethings go to far. Removing the instructors was the right thing to do,and if its proven there were wrong doing than you know the rest. Man you see how one sided most of you are on here.As F@CK UP as the department was the last administration you saw barely any wrong with it.Tell me something, whats the difference between a 19yr old and a 21yr old (besides one can legally drink)coming on the job. They’re the same, 2yrs doesn’t make much of a difference at those ages.

      • xray

        sorry for the grammatical errors was typing fast and didn’t proof read.

  • watchdogdc

    This type of activity should not be tolerated. The fire Chief has shown little respect to the victims by saying he does not think the activity was sexual in nature. He is not quilified to make that determenation hell he’s not quilified to be a Fire Chief by ethical standards. The members involved should have been placed on administrative leave for 5 days followed by enfoced leave like the order book states until the investigation is complete. My guess is that if these are founded allegations the members involved will get time off with pay just like his Buddy Lon Walls got last year whe he called the Departments members racist for walking out during the State of the Department Speech. Another telling detail of the article is the fear that a civilian mother of one of the cadets did not want to be named in fear of retaliation. That goes to show the means by which the Chief and his boys are being viewed not only by department members but by people outside the the agency. Sounds like a department of Justice Investigation should be started into the Fire Chief’s actions.

  • CadetForLife

    This shit really amazes me! It truly does. I wish I knew the idenity of the cowards voicing their opinons on terminating a program that is benefical to the citizens of the District. I know of several recruits that lacked maturity in all aspects of life. See its very easy to play “Monday Quaterback” when we arent the ones making these very critical decisons. The Cadet program was put inplace to award an oppurtunity to become an civil service worker in our very own community not just for the afro american teenagers but for anyone who wanted to make an positive impact on their community in the District but it just so happen that we dominated the program like our Caucasion Brother did the recruit program. Its no difference from an 16 year old Ticking in the backwoods of Maryland or in the Mountains of West Virginia. Age doesnt consider you an mature adult, most of the cadets are men and women before you all made it there! Lets get off our high horse for a second, it couldve been anyone’s child who alledgedly experienced this harrassment. Its not a white or black thing folks or a fire chief thing its a major issue when we have officers within this department that will use their rank to effect those in training in a negative way. Dont get me started on the beloved Dennis Rubin and his administration those cowards raped this department and ran off like a thief in the night.