WASHINGTON — D.C.’s interim fire chief will continue the controversial practice of detailing firefighters to high-crime areas as a means to deter criminal activity.
The Washington Post reported that Assistant Chief Eugene Jones said he has no problem with “soft posting” firefighters and will continue the strategy when he takes over for retiring Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe on July 2.
“It is an important strategy that is beneficial to the citizens,” Chief Jones said.
Firefighter and police unions criticize the practice, saying that placing unarmed firefighters in areas with high crime puts them harm’s way, according to the report.
“It’s just dangerous. You wouldn’t have bunch of cops running into a fire,” said Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Delroy Burton.
The firefighters’ union pointed to an incident Saturday in which gunshots sent a group of firefighters scrambling after responding to a crash scene. No one was injured by the gunfire, but firefighters took cover in a nearby apartment or underneath trucks to dodge the bullets.
“Anyone who asserts that this incident is an example of how soft posting should be stopped are either ill-advised, misinformed or not interested in facts,” department spokesman Tim Wilson said.
The crew that dodged bullets was right back out on soft posting detail Saturday and Sunday night just blocks from the location of the shooting, according to the report.
“If you refuse it then they are going to send you home on insubordination,” Dabney Hudson, with the D.C. Firefighters’ Association, said. “It’s a tough position to put them in.”