Free Speech Issues for Firefighters Discussed at FDIC 2011

David "Chip" Comstock, an attorney and fire chief with the Western Reserve Joint Fire District in Poland, Ohio, discussed various cases regarding First Amendment issues and the fire service in his Thursday classroom at FDIC 2011. Comstock, one of the hosts of Fire Engineering's Fire Service Court podcast, talked about a firefighter's right to free speech and freedom of expression in the context of a fire department's or public safety agency's right to maintain order and discipline in the ranks.

He discussed numerous considerations for fire chiefs in handling free-speech controversies, such as whether or not the communication is causing demonstrable harm to a department's relations with the community or whether it's caused internal harm. He focused on cases such as one involving a firefighter displaying a controversial bumper sticker and where a department had to deal with union-related signs, among others.

Comstock is an attorney with the firm of Comstock, Springer and Wilson Co., LPA, in Youngstown, Ohio, where he focuses on civil defense litigation, including governmental liability and insurance fraud/arson cases. He lectures extensively on company officer operations, liability, and personnel issues.

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