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Irate chief on video responds: ‘Nobody should judge me on one incident’. But should we judge how Chief Coldren & Uniontown are handling the aftermath?

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“Nobody should judge me on one incident,” is the message TribLive.com reporter Liz Zemba got in a phone conversation with Uniontown, Pennsylvania (Fayette County) Fire Chief Chuck Coldren yesterday, three days after his tirade against a citizen with a camera was posted to YouTube. The citizen is self-described activist Chris Shellhammer who, along with his mother, has been involved in protests at the courthouse and police station and regularly videos police activity.

Uniontown Mayor Ed Fike, who says the incident will be investigated, reiterated what he told other reporters, “For him to come unglued like that, somebody had to provoke him.” But according to reporter Zemba, who has seen additional raw video shot by Shellhammer, there is no indiction of anything leading up to the confrontation.

More from Zemba’s article:

“I’ve devoted 40-plus years of public service to the city of Uniontown,” Coldren said. “I’ve always been totally professional. People who don’t know me have no right to judge me.”

“They were at a bomb scare, where people are in harm’s way, and you’re trying to keep people out of harm’s way,” Fike said. “It’s not like Chuck is a mean, degrading, terrible person, because he isn’t.”

“There are two sides to every story,” Fike said. “We have to look at the video  and talk to Chuck to get to the real cause of it to determine whatever the  reprimand will be, if anything.”

Read entire article

Some thoughts on how Uniontown is dealing with this incident. When a man dressed in civilian clothes, screams “leave” to a citizen standing in an area that is not blocked off and the citizen asks who he is, if your first answer is “I’m the fire chief, do you want to f#$*ing argue with me?”, you should be throwing in the towel immediately. Stop trying to defend the indefensible, making excuses and looking for ways to justify the chief’s response and his apparent threat to do bodily harm to the citizen. All you are doing now is stretching this story into multiple days of news coverage and making sure that even more people see how stupid your fire chief looks and how lame your excuses are.

There should have been an apology from day one. With the apology should be an explanation from the mayor and fire chief that Uniontown and it’s officials recognize the rights of citizens to take pictures along with an announcement that guidelines are in place to prevent this from happening again.

If these leaders have any sense, something similar to that will ultimately occur anyway. It almost always does. Why wait and destroy your credibility and image further? Swallow your pride, get over yourself and deal with it like reponsible leaders.

In addition, if you are the person promising an investigation, when you make a statement that “somebody had to provoke him” when there is no clear evidence in the public record to back up that point, you are letting everyone know that getting to the bottom of what happened may not be your real goal.

There was a lot to learn in the original video showing the chief going nuclear and there is a lot to learn from how Uniontown is handling the fallout.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Spanner

    There is NO excuse this chief can give for the way he acted on that video period! Just admit it, you screwed up!

  • Pat Smalling

    Chief needs to check his bedside manner.

  • R2

    Well um, actually, no, you haven’t “always been totally professional.”
    Not satisfied with being a disgrace to the fire service, this clown does double duty and brings discredit on the Boy Scouts by representing them while using foul, abusive language.
    Oh, and by the way, it looks like Uniontown could benefit greatly from a PT program. What a joke. Again where is the oversight of these clowns?

  • JackWagon

    If they were on a Bomb scare, shouldn’t there have been some type of perimeter set up to keep the citizens safe and out of the area which was in question?

    If any one of those firefighters had an outburst like that, they would have been placed on charges and or fired.

    I find it very funny that the Mayor has no idea how to handle this. Maybe they all took the same classes that Gray and Ellerbe from DCFD did.

  • chief511

    If there was truly potential for the camera man to be in harms way. Why was he in t-shirt and shorts running around in a hazard area. You Chief.. sorry can’t call you a chief. You dude are just looking for a way out of your mess.

  • mark

    Chief says: ” “I’ve always been totally professional.”

    Uh chief, no you have NOT always been professional. This video proves it.

    The question is, how many times has he gotten away with it because it wasn’t being videoed?

    I thought he was on vacation? Now all of a sudden he can respond?

    Also, his statement that people that don’t know him shouldn’t be judging him is laughable at best or more like just blatantly stupid. Apparently the esteemed chief does not know how our judicial system works. Folks are judged by a jury of their peers every day. And if one of those peers knows the defendant, they are not allowed on the jury. So generally the most objective folks are those who don’t know the offending party.

    AS you stated Dave, there is absolutely NO excuse for this behavior. Even if he was in full turnout or full dress uniform, this method of dealing with his employer–the taxpayer–is indefensible. Even if it wasn’t unconstitutional, it is indefensible.

    Shut up while you’re ahead chief. And mayor.

  • Steve, a former Fire Chief

    This statement is part of the attitude he has: “I’ve devoted 40-plus years of public service to the city of Uniontown,”. Chief….and I use that title carefully because I sincerely hope your days as “chief” are limited….you have served Uniontown….but forgot that Uniontown is inhabited by PEOPLE who have rights, pay your salary and support your department. You DO NOT WORK for Uniontown, you work for the TAXPAYERS of Uniontown, and that includes the “activist” you verbally assaulted and physically threatened. You should spend a few days in the pokey for terroristic threats. Remember, even Activist have rights!

    • Kathryn Jones

      Thank you, sir.

  • Norcal

    If they were at a bomb scare, they sure did not dress for one.

  • SFD

    Bottom line…Act and look professional. The chief was WRONG!!!

  • John

    And his “posse” ain’t no better. They need to go,as well.

  • RJ in florida

    Not judge you on one incident?

    in our world one AW SHIT kills 50 ATTABOYS

    an apology aint gonna get this chief, at least a 10 day suspension AND anger management classes

    lets face it, you and the city is gonna kiss this guys ass

  • Edward M. Roche Sr.

    What is being done to the police officer who should have asrested the Chief for disorderly conduct?

  • Chris

    So if you work 40 years in Uniontown, what else can you do without fear of discipline? Are you allowed to do anything because it’s the first time? He could have attacked the guy with the camera – it’s ok it’s my first time!

  • ukfbbuff

    “One incident”

    You mean, more likey,there have been many others but this “one” caught on camera.

    Pink Slip time.

  • paulie727

    NO Department Identification? I would’ve questioned him too. Then to go off like a Billy Bad***? No professionalism! I don’t care if the worlds on fire, keep you head on straight. I’ve served 20 years and 4 as the Chief, respect is the key to success for Public Relations. Safety is the most important and it should be done properly, ROPE IT OFF!
    Now when he’s confronted he said not to judge him? Sorry, but hard NOT to when you act like that. Attitude reflects leadership.

  • Kathryn Jones

    Four days out and still not one official has reached out to the victim of this crime. Our NEIGHBORS, City Councilman, Gary Gearing, and Herald Standard editor, Mark O’Keefe haven’t reached out to my son. This frantic attempt at a cover up isn’t as much about this single video as someone watching this from the outside might infer.

    As citizens, we are appalled.
    As taxpayers, we are angry.
    As activists, we are inspired by the outpouring of support.

    There is a culture of fear that has been instilled in this community for generations that is hard to overcome. We have more support than you could imagine behind the scenes, but we are alone on the front lines. No one should have to live like this. The disrespect you see on the video, not only from the Fire Chief…but his junior officers is business as usual. Threats from city and county “officials” are a part of life here. This is so much bigger than this 2 minute video.

    • Anonymous

      I think “crime” is a little far fetched here. Ya it was totally inappropriate and unbecoming of a public official, but being bitched out and having your feelings hurt a crime?
      I guess you could contact the District Attorney and see if he will press charges.

      and @former_chief_Steve, “terroristic threats”?? wow!
      Ya I too saw the hollow, half-baked “threat”. It made me yawn, but you could be right, send this man to Gitmo!

      I think the Mayor and Chief need to come out with a public apology, and some re-training or retirement for the chief, but I don’t see anyone getting the keys to the city and a million dollars over this.

      • dave statter

        No, but the ACLU is winning suits all across the country about interfering with the rights of the public and the press to take pictures.

      • Kathryn Jones

        No one’s feelings were hurt til the video hit YouTube. We are quite used to being accosted by public officials for simply living our lives. However, the Fire Chief summoned two rank and file firefighters to act as intimidators, the taller of whom wasn’t even on the scene at the time the altercation began. And then, Coldren summoned a police officer by first name, like a lap dog really, and when the police officer began to approach, the challenge to fight was issued. Not only were there State crimes committed here, the argument can be made that Federal laws were violated as well. Money is not what motivates us. Civic duty and the Constitution motivate us. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the possibility that Coldren knew exactly who the camera operator was when he first made his approach and attempted to terrorize the young man into submission. It will be a week on Monday. Not one LE agency or governmental body has been in touch with the victim of this tirade. The longer it takes to respond, the more obvious it becomes that there’s a cover up in the works.

  • TNFF

    “There are two sides to every story,” Fike said. “We have to look at the video and talk to Chuck to get to the real cause of it to determine whatever the reprimand will be, if anything.”

    Mayor Fike said he has “to get the real cause” from the fire chief? What? Don’t believe the video or the citizen complaint? It’s gonna be hard to dispute the hard facts Mayor. If you are at a bomb scare, setup a safe area and clearly mark it. Don’t be prancing around in your denim shorts and knee high socks with no indication of you are. Motioning for your firefighters to come back you just shows what kind of person you are and dept you run. One person like you can tarnish an entire service for years to come.

  • Greg

    Love the Jean capris

  • RJ in florida

    Can be judged by a single incident? How long have you been in public service and don’t know that ONE aw shit kills 50 attaboys?

    bottom line is you messed up and a confession and apology as soon as possible is the only way out because the longer this sits (on top of you going on vacation which makes it look like you ran away) the longer public sentiment is going to go against you

    SO…MAYOR give the citizen a public “mea culpa” with the police chief for getting one of his guys involved. THEN condon gets to do another public apology on the city hall steps THEN the chief gets a two week rip and mandatory anger management class AND signs off on knowing what the law is concerning people and videotaping then this will go away because the longer is sits the longer mea culpa you will have to do and the hotheads will want more

    he messed up and should have to do the right thing. loosing his job…up to the powers that be BUT at least Capt. smart gets to say “thank god the light’s off me now” (because a goof like this is gonna be on you tube FOREVER-and forever is a long time)

  • http://statter911 Retired Ghetto Firefighter

    Chuckie the Chief, you are well past your prime, you either are insecure or have a personal issue with the young man, furthermore if it was a bomb scare you clearly have no idea what you or your minions are doing. You did not devote #$%^& 40 years because you were good at, you out lasted your predecessors.When you retire and hopefully very soon you as will get a nice retirement which is all you need at the end of the day. I am sure you have not done a thing for the current budgets nor do you have the tools to do so considering you raucous acts on the video. After the first retirement deposit is made, kiss that pay stub and thank GOD someone did not figure you out much earlier, then you can sit around and talk all you think you did for everybody, oh yes does everyone know about your nice salary, benefits, trips etc from the union?

  • David S.

    You are so right steve . This idiot has got to go now.

  • Mark

    Ok, are we to believe that this is normal SOP for a bomb scare? Lets Evaluate this clip. ” Bomb Threat ” so we have no safety area set up ? The camera man was right, Where is the taped off bomb scare area ? Now SOP requires everyone on the scene to not where their protective equipment? I would assume the Chief would be Command or at least co- command with PD official in a desinated command area running the show. Evidenty thier SOP requires the Chief to wear shorts , tee shirt and nomex white athletic socks along with black Tennis shoes wondering aimlessly in the street looking for camera man No other firemen in video dressed out accordingly . If this was such a dangerous area and the safety of not only the public but also the emergency responders was paramount , it was a complete failure ! All I get from the Chiefs response was excuses , excuses, excuses. The Mayor is just as bad by just about condoning the actions with excuses , excuses, excuses. There are no excuses, period. There are no reasons. Period . What a great example of leadership on both parts , Mayor and Chief. Just Horrible .

  • waheid

    The problem is that many of us have a problem believing that this was, in fact, an isolated incident. Judging by Chief Coldren’s appearance on the fireground, his demeanor and his language, there is good reason to suspect that what we saw on the video probably is typical. The chief’s behavior has brought unfavorable attention to the fire service in general (and to Uniontown and the Uniontown FD). He might have had a bad afternoon, but that YouTube video will be around for a long time.
    Chief Coldren says he has served the community faithfully for 40 years. That may be so, but certainly he would not be the first person who has spent a lifetime building a reputation and then demolished it in an afternoon.
    The chief says “People who don’t know me have no right to judge me.” I would add that people like Chief Coldren who claim the title of Fire Chief have no right to subject the entire fire service the kind of negative publicity as he has done. He and he alone caused this mess and it is fair to ask now what he intends to do to clean it up.

  • http://coxcommunication Sam

    Give a man a little power – watch his “true colors” come out. Completely uncalled for!

  • http://msn retiredFFin SC

    I Google Uniontown FD in Pa. they service over 2.5 sq. miles,of the City of Uniontown, have 12 on paid staff and 35 Volunteers. Just for Info. only

  • CHAOS

    He obviously has done a marvelous job during his 40 years training his underlings to manage incidents. They’re handling the bomb scare while the Chief does roaming undercover perimeter security. Yeah, that probably sums it up.

    Per the 2010 Census, Uniontown has a population of about 10k with a median household income around $20k, and a combo FD. Interesting.

  • HOOKMAN

    Ok…so umm…40 years with Utown + 2.5 sq miles – 13 paid on call FF’s = 28 calls per year…..anyways….if anything comes of this hard core soldier…please oh please will they put a memo out that you can only have 1 serving of each meal….

  • Hmmmmm

    The picture of the 3 standing there I see Dumb, Dumber and Dumba**

  • Volunteers Rock

    The only thing I have to say is I hope this person ( I can’t even call him Chief cause that implies respect) looks at all of these post. He gives Volunteers/paid on call Fire Departments bad names cause in fact this is how most career firefighters look at them, when in fact moat all are true professionals.

  • John Lynch PFD

    What an out right Hill Billy, where I’m from this Chief and his two ass lickers would have received a massive ghetto ass whip!