By Rye Druzin
The San Antonio Express-News
SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said Thursday that six cadets of the Fire Department Training Academy dismissed for drinking on the job “made some poor choices in judgment.”
“It’s a very difficult decision to have to do this,” Hood said during a news conference, adding that “what is in our DNA is to have a professional force.”
Hood declined to discuss details of the case, which stemmed from an Aug. 4 incident that involved six cadets. When asked if the incident involved more than a meal and a beer, Hood responded, “Yeah.”
Hood had department officials hand out copies of the academy’s Rules and Regulations and a sheet titled “EMT Send-off for Cadets.” One bullet point was titled “Eating out limitations” and had sub-bullet points that said, “No Hooters, etc.” and “Avoid places that serve alcohol in general.”
Hood said the cadets were still considered civilians and not firefighters. He referred to their send-off specifically and said violations “come with consequences.”
The dismissals were challenged by the firefighters union.
Chris Steele, president of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, said the cadets were not in uniform.
“These guys were wronged, and if anybody comes to me that was wronged, we’re going to try to help them,” Steele said.
The chief said the cadets were given the opportunity to resign, calling the choice “humane” because it would not show up if the men tried to apply for jobs in the future. On Aug. 18, four of them resigned, and the other two were terminated. It is not known which cadets chose which route.
“We were trying to maintain their privacy, their confidentiality, to where if they would’ve all resigned, no one would probably know about this,” Hood said.
With Steele in the room, Hood told reporters that “it is unfortunate that the firefighters union has attempted to politicize this issue for their own gain, and since I’ve been there, I’ve never had the firefighters union step up to support any actions with cadets.”
After the news conference, Steele said the issue had nothing to do with politics but with justice for the cadets.
“It’s not politics. It’s that chief has not done his due diligence and has ended six young men’s dreams,” Steele said as he stood in the lobby of the Public Safety Headquarters.
“One young man has a 4-month-old. He’s gotta go find a job now, and he had absolutely zero demerits.”
Steele said his organization had investigated the matter and that “all the evidence that we have … these cadets are telling the truth, 100 percent.”
The cadets were identified by the Fire Department as Scott Kneupper, Mike Martin, Joseph Angelo, Clifford King, Rene Loredo (Ricardo) and Kevin Martinez.
The six cadets account for more than 10 percent of the current class of future firefighters, according to Hood.
Copyright 2016 the San Antonio Express-News