现在，市消防局局长肯尼斯·埃勒贝 (Kenneth Ellerbe) 正在采取严厉措施，解决该部门目前猖獗的不诚实和犯罪问题。Ellerbe 发布了一项特别授权，要求该部门的 1,800 名“运营”员工接受全面的犯罪背景调查。局长还向部门成员发出最后通牒：在未来 10 天内报告任何最近的逮捕、驾照被吊销或刑事定罪，或者在背景调查中发现这些罪行时面临解雇。
背景调查任务和部门对员工的严厉警告可能看起来令人惊讶，但鉴于最近发生的事件，这样的事情是不可避免的。报告显示，在过去三四个月内，至少有 11 名华盛顿特区的交火人员因一系列罪行被捕。据称最近的逮捕涉及一名在酒精影响下驾驶的消防员。这名消防员还因在车内非法携带枪支而被引用。一系列类似的罪行——尤其是如果不报告的话——可能会对 DC 消防部门的整体诚信造成重大打击，因此 Ellerbe 决定对运营员工进行重复背景调查。
The Washington D.C. fire department is one of those organizations that runs background checks on its applicants at hiring time, but then moves to an honor system regarding its current employees. In other words, the department doesn’t typically require its employees to complete repeat background checks, asking instead that firemen and other department workers report any new instances of arrest or criminal conviction to human resources. Unfortunately though, fire department officials have indicated that this self-reporting honor system has not been working as intended. Numerous members of the department have been arrested in recent months, and only a small percentage of those run-ins with the law have been reported in accordance with department policy.
Now, Kenneth Ellerbe – the city fire chief – is taking drastic measures to address the issues of dishonesty and crime that are currently running rampant in the department. Ellerbe has issued a special mandate that will require the department’s 1,800 “operational” employees to submit to comprehensive criminal background checks. The chief has also given department members an ultimatum of sorts: report any recent arrests, driver’s license suspensions, or criminal convictions within the next 10 days, or face termination if and when those offenses turn up on a background check.
Ellerbe’s statement to employees said that the fire department would use “all legally authorized methods of review” to uncover any undisclosed instances of criminal history within the agency. The checks will apply mostly to field workers – including employees who man fire trucks or ambulances – and will exempt most department desk workers. The statement also warns that any unreported crimes or arrests could be grounds for termination or other disciplinary action, but specifically names vehicle-related offenses – particularly DUI or DWI citations – as points of focus.
The background-check mandate and the department’s decidedly stern warning to employees may seem surprising, but given recent events, something like this was inevitable. Reports indicate that at least 11 Washington D.C. firefights have been arrested in the last three or four months, for a range of offenses. The most recent arrest allegedly involved a firefighter who was caught driving under the influence of alcohol. That particular firefighter was also cited for illegally carrying a firearm in his vehicle. A series of similar crimes – especially if left unreported – could serve as a major blow to the D.C. fire department’s overall integrity, hence Ellerbe’s sweeping decision to run repeat background checks on operational employees.
This isn’t the first time that Washington’s fire department has vowed to run background checks on current employees. In 2007, the department’s former chief proposed a policy for periodic repeat background checks, after accusations were raised that certain department employees may have been running an illegal prostitution business out of city firehouses. Rubin succeeded in implementing regular repeat background checks for a time, but it only took a few years for the department to revert to its old ways of running background screenings only on incoming employees. Typically, the only current employees that have received consistent repeat background checks are those who have been posted to oversee the presidential inauguration. Beyond that, most employees haven’t been background checked since they were vetted as part of their initial application process.