Akron Beacon Journal
An Akron firefighter has received unspecified discipline after using a fire hose to spray an activist filming a crime scene.
The department is not sharing what the discipline was, but a spokesperson said they “didn’t come by it lightly.”
On March 27, a local activist who goes by Ryan Ohio Protests online, was filming after a stabbing near the intersection of East Market Street and North Prospect. A 38-year-old man who was stabbed there later died from his wounds.
Firefighters were cleaning the sidewalk while Ryan recorded. After about a minute of filming, he walked closer to the firefighters to speak to a man heading into Haven of Rest about the stabbing.
One minute and 50 seconds into the video, the firefighter operating the hose asks Ryan to move. He complies and walks backward to about the area he was filming at earlier.
About 15 seconds later, the firefighter turns the hose and sprays Ryan for a few seconds. The firefighter can be heard saying, “It’s a crime scene, dude.” Ryan responds that he doesn’t see any tape, and the firefighter again tells him it is a crime scene.
Internal investigation concludes
The incident and video prompted an investigation and a statement from the fire department March 29, calling the spraying “inexcusable.”
Lt. Sierjie Lash, public information officer for the fire department, said Thursday the investigation is closed and the firefighter has been disciplined but not been fired. She said the department’s policy is to not publicize the name of firefighters who have been disciplined or to disclose the penalties.
“The decision was not an easy resolution,” Lash said. “We didn’t come by it lightly.”
Lash said the firefighter is receiving additional training from the department and city’s human resources department. He was placed on leave after the investigation started, and was still on leave as of Thursday, she said.
The Beacon Journal submitted a public records request for the investigation and other related records Thursday.
Ryan has asked that his last name not be used because of the harassment and threats he’s received since being sprayed. He describes himself as a homeless advocate as well as a First Amendment advocate. He said the primary reason he was at the scene was to check on homeless friends.
He told the Beacon Journal on Thursday he’s upset with how the situation has been handled by Akron.
“I think a fair resolution is to name the firefighter who assaulted me and to have public transparency on the investigation, the discipline and the additional training,” Ryan said.
Ryan said not disclosing the pun leaves him to believe the firefighter was given a “slap on the wrist.” He said he doesn’t think anything but firing is acceptable, saying how long the fire department took to release information factors into his opinion.
Lash said she understands that not naming the firefighter will make people in the public upset. She reiterated that the department doesn’t condone the actions and that the department took the incident seriously.
“We want them to know it was complete investigation, we did not sweep anything under the rug,” Lash said. “We want to make sure this is not something that’s repeated. This is not something we condone.”
Lash said the firefighter’s actions do not represent the entire department. She said the department has safety reasons to not release the firefighter’s name.
Ryan said he’s also upset that he was not contacted by the fire department during the investigation to give his side of the story or to address his concerns. He said he made several attempts to contact the department.
No appeal planned by union
Kevin Gostkowski, president of the Akron firefighter’s union Local 330, said the firefighter “took full responsibility and apologized.” He has not filed an appeal and waived some union rights to allow for a speedier discipline process.
“From the union’s standpoint, we obviously don’t condone his actions, but we appreciate that he owned up to it and is handling it like he is,” Gostkowski said.
He said it was an out of character moment for the firefighter.
Lash said additional training has been made available across the department, and that it’s taking steps to make sure no firefighters believe such behavior is acceptable.
Reach reporter Sean McDonnell at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron firefighter disciplined for spraying man filming crime scene; activist unhappy with response
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