Is the District Setting Personnel Records on Fire?
D.C. police and firefighters union officials are asking for an investigation into what they say was a giant blaze involving three dumpsters and an abandoned car's worth of personnel records, including medical files containing private information.
In a letter sent to the Office of the Inspector General today, the heads of the two unions say that last Friday around 5 p.m., a D.C. fire engine company was dispatched to the city's fire department training academy to put out three dumpster fires. After the firefighters started putting out the fires, they realized that some of the documents were personnel files of cops and firefighters, the letter says.
The letter continues: "In addition to the burning documents, there were unburned documents scattered on the ground throughout the training facility and unburned documents in an abandoned car. Members of FEMS were able to identify their own training and medical records in the documents in the abandoned car."
The unions also provided the IG with pictures and videos from the incident, which LL has posted below. In one picture, you can see one file that looks like records from some sort of EMT certification class in 1997. The fire company left after putting out the fire, but not before expressing concerns about the status of their records with Deputy Chief Michael Willis, the letter says. At 11 p.m., the letter says the same company was called back to put out a fire that had started in the abandoned car holding more records.
The union heads are asking for the IG to investigate whether city rules regarding the safekeeping of personnel files were followed. The unions also express concern that some of these records could be potential evidence in current or future lawsuits. "In this case not only did someone make a decision to burn potential evidence, but also they used District resources to transfer the documents, load the documents, and left them burning in garbage dumpsters—causing dangerous tires that required the attention FEMS personnel," the letter says.
LL is awaiting a response from the fire department's spokesman and will updated as needed. The ultimate question here: What are these files, and why were they burning?
Here's the letter, the pictures, and a second video.