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Facebook problems in the Nation’s Capital. Five DC firefighters taken off the street for comments about police.

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Jackie Bensen, WRC-TV/NBC4:

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.

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.

Through a spokesman, Ellerbe said the fire department can’t comment because it is a personnel matter.

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

Neal Augenstein,

Four firefighters commented on the original post, and were also assigned to desk duty, according to Ed Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association.

“There isn’t a social media policy in place,” says Smith. “If members are going to be held accountable then it needs to be upfront and the rules need to be known about what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds,” says Smith.

Smith says the issue isn’t only a public safety concern.

“Employees in all workplaces are struggling with social media policies,” says Smith.

The head of the firefighters’ union says establishing a policy reflects expectations, but also provides for free speech.

“You have to find that fine line between keeping the public trust and respecting members’ First Amendment rights,” says Smith.

Smith says he’s reached out to his counterpart in the police union, “just to let him know we respect our brothers and sisters in blue.”

D.C. Fire has not responded to a request for comment.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Joe

    ““If members are going to be held accountable then it needs to be upfront and the rules need to be known about what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds,” says Smith.”

    So you’re saying that you and these 5 firefighters don’t know that saying something this stupid on a social media site might be out of bounds? The First Rule of Facebook: Don’t be an idiot.

  • Earl

    Was the firefighter on duty at the time?

    • Karn

      Does it matter?

  • DCFDmuzzled

    I can’t comment because of an imaginary rule that evidently exists but is written no where. Ahh but what the heck. You should post all of what was said if you are going to report any of it. Ellerbe is trying to use this for political gain, by only releasing parts of the comments. BTW what is reported is not a direct quote, it is paraphrasing. THIS IS NOT WHAT WAS SAID!

    • Karn

      YOU obviously know what was said so why dont YOU post it?


    Good thing there’s no disparity shown towards members of the department when issues surface and become news worthy….Let’s see….be under investigation by Internal Affairs (a joke to begin with) and you’ll get your hand slapped and sent back to the field…Post a picture ON YOUR DAY OFF AND ON YOUR OWN PHONE WHILE OFF DUTY….your off the street….have fun with this ACLU…


      meant….be under investigation for sexual harrassment and innapropriately touching female firefighters/cadets…

      • International playboy

        is it wrong to sexually harass the female cadets? I thought FIRECHIEF ELLERBE said it is ok bcs it was “misunderstood touching”.

        • HOOKMAN

          yes…with his broad knowledge and personal experience with sexual harrassment…there probably is a difference….because we all know the difference between innapropriate touching versus non sexual innapropriate touching…lol

  • Anonymous

    Bad report and spin on what was posted. DCFD functions under a brutal labor vs management battle.

    That is a first though, a MPD officer giving a firefighter a ticket. Usually, professional courtesy rules unless the guy was way out of order.

    Didn’t think through the post.

  • Barney Miller

    this is nothing new people. We are guilty until proven innocent here at FEMS. This is the first time it was a group of employees. Paramedics are pulled off the street regularly because of perceived infractions or complaints from someone’s uncles cousins godsister. That is why paramedics are leaving the city. Treat employees like children and they will act like children. Treat them like adults, they will feel valued and produce unbelievable results for you. And when council admits that morale is in the basement due to underlying agenda(s), then we might begin to solve the problem. Don’t listen to us we are home grown terrorists that destroy equipment, are overpaid and don’t care about the city! Some day, some day this city will open it’s eyes and realize that the DCFD is full of men and women that do far more than they are paid to do, EVERYDAY. Yes we make a fair wage but stress and cancer will consume most of us well before we reach average life expectancy. People wake up, they violate our contract on a daily basis, refuse to bargain for years let alone in good faith. This incident would be nothing without the miles of Bad Press that have come before it. What city, government or group would allow someone with such documented poor decision making to remain in charge of a critical service? I’ll tell you who…..the same city that re-elects a crack user, allows a councilman to steal money from kids, entertains “fully loaded” anything with YOUR tax dollars and doesn’t look the world over for the best leaders of their employees. Stay Classy DC!

    I know I just ranted…

  • Its only fair

    Stop trying to defend dumb and inappropriate behavior. They shouldn’t have said it,commented or what have you.You guys have more excuses than i can keep up with

    They were wrong for posting those idiotic statements. Just last month you were applauding the police (union pres.) for bashing our chief.Hey FOP pres. what do you think about firemen making fun of taking time to respond to your members.

    It was tasteless and totally out of bounds to post something like that.You guys have been doing dumb sh@t and getting away with it for a long time….chief I’m glad you are here clean this mess up.

  • Robert Kramer

    Find it interesting that the fire chief xac’t comment because “it is a personal matter”, which leads me to believe it is not a FD matter if the Fire Chief can’t comment on it.

    • Anonymous

      I believe that what was said was “it’s a personnel matter”.


    well said Barney…..another thing not mentiomed here is the rat on this persons facebook page….unless his/her settings were set to public, nobody would have known what was said EXCEPT those on that persons friends list….whomever that rat or rats were, took the cheese and brought it to their daddy…similar to the 9 Engine beer incident….one can’t possibly believe that someone just opened this persons facebook page and bam…there’s this photo of a cop and the comments to go along with it…paaaalease…..this is why King Clown can’t manage a big boy department…he’s too focused on acting like a child and play petty and retaliatory games against those who live outside Kenny’s comfort zone and those who aren’t like him or think like him…like Barney said…treat grown adults like children and expect the same results…treat members with respect and dignity and maybe you’ll see the best department in the world that you claim to work for on your Twitter page…However, its too late as you’ve shown that you are the opposite of a horse’s front side, but its the members in the trenches day in and day out that make the department what it keep wearing your sack coat to show everyone who you are, attend your ANC medtings and the members will do exactly what you were always incapable of being….a fireman

  • T Mills

    Hey,where is the local president.Second time in row,he didn”tget on the news to defend his guys.{Why}The first were eng-18 going on medical locals driving under 18 MPH on a sunday.DC fireman think u can”t be get a ticket.Sh t if he was recording me.HE will get one too.

    • Barney Miller

      I can’t be certain of the Union President on E-18, but I did hear his voice on the interview and I did see Dave Statter’s article quote him several times. “You have to find that fine line between keeping the public trust and respecting members’ First Amendment rights,”… I do think he is on it. Ohhh Vanna, can T mills buy a vowel? or a clue?

      • dave statter

        Just to be clear, those weren’t my articles. Those were done by news organizations in DC that I relayed. But yes, he was quoted in both incidents.


  • Rich Schaffer

    Was the facebook posting really a shot at the police? It seems to be more aimed at being a shot at the recent order that requires apparatus to respond anywhere in the city at anytime of day under any weather and traffic conditions within a certain timeframe. It dosen’t seem to have been a harmful message to the police- I think most DC FF/EMT/Paramedics would risk their lives for our fellow cops. Would have to know what the rest of the comments were.

    • Barney Miller

      Rich, I only saw the surface report but from my perception the FF might have been eluding to HIS actions. (I) should slow down and take (my) time getting any where. Like he got the ticket and was now having a reflection of self giving heed to his fellow co-workers. He could have also been referring to the Fire Chief acting like the police, pulling over fire trucks etc. again a call to “slow his own roll”. Just because it seems like something, doesn’t mean it is that. But guilty until proven innocent is the law of the land with Kim Jong LRB.

  • notapopularopinion

    A lot of this goes to the lines of responsible journalism, Dave, your thoughts? “something along the lines of..” without having a quote, picture, or context.. I know you didnt post the article, just curious to your thoughts on that. to me, irresponsible journalism, and construed the story to fit a narrative being pushed without any factual evidence behind it other than a paraphrased quote nobody is sure is actually what was said, people are dog piling on ”what idiots!!”.. when it could simply be the ‘typical’ fire vs police ribbing eachother that someone got upset over

    • dave statter

      I haven’t analyzed the specific coverage, but I believe in general it’s a very legitimate story and one that I would have done if I was still reporting. Five firefighters taken off the street because of accusations about a Facebook post is newsworthy in itself even if you don’t know the content of the postings (and I don’t).

      Of course, I would do my best to see those posts and like to think I would have nailed it down to my satisfaction that it was an accurate portrayal or be able to show them. I tend to believe a veteran reporter like Jackie Bensen with her sources would do the same (again, I have no specific knowledge).

      As for the accusations, they are very similar to the ones made against the volunteer firefighters in Bel Air, MD when they threatened a lack of response in Facebook posts because of their perceived slight by the manager of a fast food joint.

      I also think, at this point, as a reporter, with all of the no comments and the avoiding of the press that has gone on, I would do what I hate to do and stake out the fire chief and chase him with a camera if necessary to hear what he has to say on these issues.

      Look at how the Bel Air chief handled the situation. His statements were quite clear and immediate. Yes, I know it’s a personnel situation, but this administration and others have talked about many personnel situations. If it is in fact outrageous behavior, I would hope the leadership of the fire department would make a clear statement, even an apology to the police. Now, as far as the individuals involved and their rights to do this, it may in the end be nothing the department can discipline them over. But that doesn’t mean the fire chief and the department shouldn’t be very clear on the position of the department if their was a public discussion about a reduced response.


    and Dave..wouldn’t it be fair to then do a report on this administration that shows the disparity in how people are treated….as i stated before….sexual harrassment & innapropriate touching allegations that are being investigated gets you PUT BACK ON THE STREET….whereas, posting a picture on your own time, own phone and on your day off gets you taken OFF THE STREET…????….whom I kiddin..the news doesn’t care about how people get treated…One City baby….ONE F****N CORRUPT CITY!!!

    • dave statter

      Not talking about this adminitstration or even this department, but that type of story is a little more subjective and you would probably need a few people to come forward or some clear documentation. It also requires the time and effort to investigate something like that. Few news organizations will give someone the time to do that.

      Also, and I think we have had this conversation before, one person being wronged or the possibility even that a bunch of people being wrong is harder sell to the news bosses than the Facebook story (not that I haven’t done stories like that). They will ask you how does it impact our audience, or how will our viewers releate to it. It’s a little harder to show. Threatening to deny service, if that happened, is something the viewer is going to relate to more than Fireman Joe got put on desk duty for his screwup but Fireman Mike was put in a running company. Not saying any of it is right, just providing a reality check.

      • HOOKMAN

        I know i keep beating the horse even more about that issue, but have to agree with you..its hard, but have to look at things from a reporters view and thats what I or even the reporter might want to do a story about, isn’t necessarily what his boss thinks would sell to the viewers…

    • it must be christmas

      @ Hookman, keeping in line with dcfd rich history dealing with disciplinary actions….the pace and the outcome is perfectly inline with tradition.

      Do you remember what happen to the chef cooking at engine 11.You know the one who forgot his smock…..they were just transferred.

      Although I would have fired them…..but that wasn’t their fate… if these guys just get transferred that would be following the traditions of dcfd as far as discipline.

      Now my civil mind says to crush these cats to the point of termination. But that wouldn’t be fair to them because it wouldn’t be following tradition.

      If it was up to me they would be gone and so would the naked chef with a few others. Unlike some of you here you condone bad behavior….to the tone of making excuses no matter what.

      Me I would be a equal opportunist….you do dumb sh@t on purpose….you get slammed right through the hoop. So hook If they get just transferred than that would be perfectly ok….. according to how things have been down for errant behavior.

      You seem to have an excellent memory recalling the past….but I think you had a relapse about the naked chef debacle. Its ok, its called selective recalling and memory.

      The mayor is backing his man because he knows whats going on within this department. You stay with person who has the citizens best interest…..why would he back employees who don’t know how to conduct themselves in public. (i.e. turning your back to an official on camera)

      Mayor Gray run again you have my vote and you are doing a good job for the citizens of this city……even if it means changing the work schedule….as long as its 2-2-n 4.

  • it must be christmas

    This is all rather and utterly ridiculous….a public servant has no business forming their lips to make ugly comments like that.

    Yet its another shining example of how immature some dcfd members are. You put out negativity and that’s what you get back in return. It’s amazing how someone can come on a site and just about have the worst character of anybody on the job….yet they have plenty to say about others.

    Start taking accountability for yourselves and you wont be
    going through this. This is a new time and age so you cant put out your true feelings on social media…..stay anonymous geniuses.

    Ed Smith is doing a hell of a job making excuses for the membership. How about this Ed don’t defend idiotic behavior let them get what they deserve. You make it seem as though firefighters here never do anything wrong.

    There is a lot of rouge behavior going on and it needs to be stopped. I heard a captain was one of the rouge members who commented on the page. Way to show good leadership captain….that’s part of the problem here….officers have private mentalities.

    You call yourselves public servants…..start acting like it….because as of now we cant tell. I know that it’s not everyone….but at the same time no one had the balls to say hey that’s inappropriate.

    A CAPTAIN! I am still shocked about that… a chief I would question his ability to lead. Discipline them and lets move on…..hopefully no one will put idiotic quotes on a social site again.


    It must be Christmas….wow…pretty bold statement to make coming from someone who chooses a name other than his real name, so he to can remain anonymous….since you seem to have first hand knowledge..what did FF X say that embarassed you and your enormously small mind to make YOU comment about another person. The only thing reported is this person took a picture of an MPD officer walking away from his vehicle with 4 other fireman commenting on his post….is this the information that leads you to your uneducated anx ridiculous assumptions about something you know squat about or you one of the trolls that sit at Grimke all day looking for who said what on twitter or facebook…..if you don’t have a clue which most of your comments come off as having, then go crawl back under Kendra’s desk and take some more notes…I dont have the most time on the job, but since ive been on, i think Ed Smith and the BOD have done a stand up job….hopefully you won’t need their help anytime soon simce you seem to be one of Kenneth’s special prodigy’s… in the meantime…keep massaging Kendra’s undercarriage and let the fireman do what you’ve probably failed to do your entire career…


    One more thing It must be Christmas….I’ll agree with you that the last administration was quite similar in the way they acted (as in allowing a DFC’s son to come to work wearing a court monitoring bracelet on his ankle), whether it was a matter of discipline or their moral and ethical character…As I stated before, Ellerbe had the opportunity to put in end to what you call tradition…I’ll just refer to it as, the disparity amongst members and how they were treated during each administration, because the traditions of the DCFD are very rich and one of the reasons why I chose to become a DC Fireman.

    I think part of this administration if not all, is to abolish the traditions which to me is a slap in the face to all LODD DC Fireman who gave the ultimate sacrifice for complete strangers no matter where they resided. I have a book published by the Smithsonian Institute called, ” The District of Columbia Firefighter Project “…..I can assure you that if you ever get a copy to read, you’ll see the many traditions in this book that have allowed you this career opportunity, as well as the same traditions which allowed the current inept and incompetent FEMS Administrator to become a book smart street dumb fireman, to where his is now.

    I believe this administration has so much anomosity built up towards the members who pride themselves with these rich traditions, that the person occupying the second floor office at Grimke, has set out on a mission to destroy…These traditions have nothing to do with technology or holding the department back so much that change is needed….Learning your District to making coffee is not effecting our service to the District of Columbia citizens and visitors. The traditions of this department to me our a foundation in which the DCFD was built on and to destroy them because of a childish petty and retaliatory mindset is quite disturbing.

    Last, if you believe in paybacks for the way you were treated or the way you’ve seen others prior to 2011 treated, then your just as much of an insecure person as the one you hail as the leader of this department. Have you ever heard of being the better man or person. I know its hard..but no matter how much you’ve been wronged and trust me I was wronged by the last administration, however, I’m not the type of person who seeks joy in watching others get treated the same or worse, and a big reason why I jumped off (a bit later than most..sorry) the Kenny could do the right thing and be the best Fire Chief ever bandwagon…who wants to be associated with a cowardly insecure and retaliatory person who doesn’t have 99.9% of the members interest at hand…Obviously your part of the 0001% who believes he does…Sad..really sad…

    • it must be christmas

      Bravo…..that was touching….i’ll agree that trying to pay back isn’t taking the high road. At the same I believe all the people who wronged chief Ellerbe got outta here faster than speed racer.

      You may have been wrong a lil bit….but you brought a lot against yourself. Certainly if you believe n tradition…than you must believe in order, discipline, and respect.

      I for one didn’t care for the last regime, but they didn’t bother u if you didn’t F’up or make yourself a target. Yes they had their protected crew who could slip out of a catchers glove…..but if u stayed of the radar u were ok.

      I think that is synonymous with any organization…..give them a reason to come after you and they will. BTW I didn’t know u published a book….see I just thought u were a hick from the sticks…congrats.

      Back to bizness…..all tradition here in DC is not and have not been good….so don’t go on talking like this department has always been great. I know of many who have passed through those halls and can tell you some horror stories about how the were treated. You think u had it rough….that was peanuts compared to what they went through.

      So when u say lrb doesn’t have the experience… I guess being a Lt. assigned to engine 30 doesn’t count for street creds huh?. Not riding his jock….but if u can make it at 30 and they ran like hell back than….i’m quite sure he got a lot of experience while he was there.

      We are getting a lil of beat….my point is that u stated that the guys who allegedly harassed some cadets would just be transferred. I said if that’s all they would receive is a transfer….it would be inline to how things are done.

      That’s the funny thing about this job….any and everyone could be talked about in a negative way…..yes even your beloved capt S…n. There are people who don’t have love for him….but according to you he is highly respected….but by whom?….those that he looked out for?.

      Bottom line is if you violate the rules you have to atone for it….the more egregious the infraction….the more severity of the penalty. Do we need something in writing as professionals to know whether we mite be doing something wrong. I mean did it ever occur in the fcebook bandits lil brains that this was a bad idea.

      See hook I don’t condone bad behavior…..people on here including yourself have defended and came up with every excuse for these pariahs. You can call it petty or not…but when the boss sets the rules or enforces it….no matter how petty u may think it is you follow it.

      If u are a firm believer in tradition as u claim….than u are doing the dcfd a disservice by being disrespectful of its leadership. We can’t function as a whole when members aren’t willing to follow tradition of obeying your superiors….that’s part of tradition too.

      No one said u had to like or agree with them….but you must respect and follow orders. I think my point is made so I will end with this… watch what u post on social media….it can cost u in the long run.

  • uptown saturday nite

    @ hookman and it must be Christmas,

    You both made some valid points although I may not agree with them all. Talking about ones career is subjective at the least.
    Discipline in the past wasn’t applied equally across the board.

    The guys that commented on facebook were stupid for posting that garbage. The members at the training academy if proving to be found guilty….i’m quite sure the chief isn’t in a position to let this one ride.

    Lets wait and see what happens guys before we pass judgement

  • Anonymous

    “Lets wait and see what happens guys before we pass judgement”

    This should have been the first statement posted