Calif. firefighters claim battalion chief secretly recorded colleagues

A lawsuit filed by the La Verne Firefighters Association alleges Battalion Chief Michael Thompson took more than 250 videos and 1,500 photos of union members

By FireRescue1 Staff

LA VERNE, Calif. — A lawsuit filed by a firefighters’ union claims a battalion chief secretly took videos and photographs of his colleagues.

Daily Bulletin reported that members of the La Verne Firefighters Association allege that La Verne Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Thompson secretly took more than 250 videos, 1,500 photos and 235 pages of notes of firefighters in an effort to gather evidence for disciplinary purposes.

Firefighter Danny Montoya said Thompson’s “behavior was grotesque.”

“This is not how a professionally managed department or city should be run. It is sad and unfortunate that it has come to this,” Montoya said.

The claims were made during sworn testimony for ongoing litigation between the city and the union surrounding Fire Chief Peter Jankowski, who the union claims retaliated against members for supporting the mayor’s opponent in the 2017 election.

Montoya said Thompson hid in places such as behind walls and curtains to film firefighters in their personal vehicles and private areas of the fire station.

“He admitted that the purpose in keeping these notes, videos and photos was to try and store up material that he could later use for disciplinary processes,” Montoya said.

Montoya added that Jankowski was asked to change door lock codes when union members said they felt unsafe, but he refused.

“We think the appropriate action is for the city to place Jankowski on leave as well until his role in and knowledge of Thompson’s conduct can be fully investigated,” Montoya said. “We have repeatedly asked for the city to help, but the city has refused at every turn. This newly exposed conduct is shocking and requires redress.”

The union is seeking $1 million for mental and emotional injuries, but said they are willing to settle out of court if the city terminates both Jankowksi and Thompson and allow firefighters to participate in the hiring process to replace them.

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