In January of 2011 a Philadelphia Fire company was responding to a call when they encountered a woman who was pretty busy. As they approached an intersection with a four-way stop sign, driver stopped to check traffic. The opposing cars were stopped. What the driver did not see was that busy woman on her cell phone coming up behind the cars that were stopped. She suddenly saw the cars and swerved to avoid them. Her vehicle struck the fire truck at the driver’s door. This was an emergency vehicle and it is painted red and white with yellow reflective striping. It is hard to miss it but people do, especially a distracted driver. The city covers their collective butts by making this announcement at the beginning of every dispatch. “All drivers will to come to a complete stop at intersections, red lights and stop signs.” Well by all accounts this company did stop the intersection there were two civilian witnesses who stayed to tell the story. The firefighters saw the stopped cars but they did not see our distracted driver. How could they, she was probably a one hundred feet from the intersection when they looked. But she closed the gap and struck the fire truck. At this point the system was set in motion. The on-duty Battalion Chief and a police officer were sent to the scene to investigate .
After this investigation was conducted, which included our distracted driver admitting to being on the cell phone and not seeing what was in front of her. The battalion chief filed a report to the Fire Administration that the accident was not the fault of the company involved. Case Closed just a week or two after the accident. Not so fast came the reply from the Fire Administration Building (FAB). It was Car 2 who sent the forms back to the Battalion Chief instructing him to file charges on the officer and the driver of the company. Oddly the officer was charged in early February while no charge sheet was issued to the driver until mid March. Why the big gap? So now we have a chief who knows his men did nothing wrong having to bring charges at the request of the petty little men at the FAB. For those of you who don’t know who Car 2 is That is Deputy Commissioner Ernest Hargett Jr. This is Ernie
That is one very big thumbs up to screwing with the lives and potentially livelihoods of the members of the Fire Department. I love that picture because it is the antithesis of Ernie. Who turns out to not be such a nice fellow. In fact, he and Lloyd Ayers seem to be quite the pair. Quite a pair of bad men. But back to our story.
The charges were filed and a trail board was set. But it appears injustice is slow in the PFD and the board was not held until December of 2011. At the trail it was revealed that the woman admitted being at fault. Her insurance company paid the city of Philadelphia for the damage to the truck. In fact an adjuster for the city came to the firehouse and photographed the repaired vehicle to document them. When all was said and done the trail board voted in favor of the members 2 to 1. This means the men were not guilty of the charges forced on them by Ernest Hargett and Lloyd Ayers. This means they were not culpable for the accident. But it also meant the men at 3rd and Spring garden were not only wrong again they opened themselves up to a legal challenge, because they wanted to get their pint of blood. The Officer and the driver were docked 48 hours (one week) of pay and transferred from their firehouse. The driver is a family man so the first thing is that Ernie and Lloyd took food out of the mouths of the children of this firefighter and there is a good chance the Lieutenant also has a family. Plus the travel time for at least the driver has increased by about a half hour each way. Taking him from his family for an additional 4 hours a week. Remember, they were found not at fault by a Deputy Chief, a Captain and Firefighter, plus various city agencies. Here is where this scenario gets interesting.
In June of 2010 there was an accident in West Philadelphia. A fire truck and police car collided en route to the same fire. The police car was driven onto the sidewalk and hit a bicyclist. Both the Police Officer and the cyclist were taken to the hospital. Here is a picture of the car provided by 6ABC in Philadelphia
It sure looks like the back of that car got hit pretty hard. When this accident occurred the hierarchy of the Philadelphia Fire Department was the same as it was on the day of the accident in South Philadelphia. This seems like a much more serious accident than a fender bender in South Philly. Two people transported to the hospital is a big deal. So you would think the punishment for this crew would be even more strict than the one we talked about first. You would be wrong. According to many sources there were no charges filed in this accident. In fact the fire officer who should have been charged with the same charges as our South Philly crew never faced a trial board, he got promoted in less time than it took to settle the South Philly case. The Officer responsible for sending two people to the hospital is now a Battalion Chief in the Philadelphia Fire Department.
The PICA study of the PFD talked about a racial issues constantly in the background. Could it be that issue is an unequal treatment of members by the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Operations? Why was the Captain of the West Philadelphia Company not punished but promoted but the members in the South Philly accident lost money and their stations? If only we knew the answer.