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“Butt-slapping, wedgies, an ‘overwhelming infatuation’ with comparing male genitalia” and sexual pranks at Columbia (SC) Fire Department’s Station 8 resulted in the dismissal of five fire officers and firefighters in May. The news today (Wednesday), from David Travis Bland at The State, is that police were brought into the investigation on April 29. A spokesperson has confirmed for the reporter that after a thorough investigation there were no criminal charges.
There’s an important lesson here. The firings at Station 8 have been in the news in South Carolina since June. It’s now October and this is at least the third story over the last five days. The latest stories came from a June Freedom of Information Act request filed by The State. Instead of putting it all out there in May or June and getting this behind them, the Columbia Fire Department and the City of Columbia decided to keep the truth under wraps. Because of that, they are now dealing with a brand new wave of image damaging news reports. You’ve likely heard it before, but bad news doesn’t smell better with age. Get the truth out as fast as you can — all of it — and start working on restoring the department’s reputation. If you do it right, a spring story shouldn’t come back to bite you in the fall.
The review for criminal offenses started after a firefighter walked off the job because of the antics at the Columbia Fire Department’s Station 8 at 933 Atlas Road, according to internal documents from the department. When asked why he left, the firefighter said he “couldn’t take the sexual crap anymore.”
Fire department officials looked into the station and its leaders and concluded that a “substantial leadership failure” had “fostered an over-sexed culture laden with unacceptable conversation, pranks that far exceed the bounds of professional conduct and offensive touching.” Fire department officials fired five of the station’s employees, including its battalion chief, Christopher Gates, two captains, a fire engineer and a senior firefighter.