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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