On Monday June 4th Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company Chief of Department Eddie Hopkins received an email from a concerned citizen who had come in contact with a Facebook posting that allegedly involved several members of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. The Facebook posters had allegedly made threatening and distasteful comments toward a local Sonic restaurant and its management because one of them had apparently not received a discount while visiting the establishment. The complainant was upset at the lack of professionalism displayed by all involved and the inappropriateness of their posts. The complainant had also attached a screen shot of the thread in question showing the post and the persons involved.
After reviewing this complaint and the posts themselves an exhaustive investigation was immediately conducted by senior staff of the Bel Air VFC. During this review it was determined that nine of the individuals who made comments were active members of the Bel Air VFC while others were possibly attached to other fire companies across Harford County. Upon completion of the investigation Chief Hopkins made the determination to hand out disciplinary actions against these members based on their violation of several fire department policies, including conduct unbecoming and the violation of the company social media policy. Three members were suspended for four weeks with recommendation to the company Board of Directors for termination, one member was demoted from a regular membership firefighter to an entry level firefighter and placed on probation for one year, and one Lieutenant was demoted to firefighter. The others received verbal reprimands and work details. Each of these disciplinary actions is eligible for appeal to the Board of Directors or company body.
“This is unacceptable behavior of our membership," Chief Hopkins said. "I am extremely disappointed and ashamed that any of our members would make these statements. This type of activity has been dealt with swiftly. I cannot express my disappointment to these members enough. They have brought great disrespect to the company, their fellow firefighters and those they serve, you the public, and for that I apologize. I hope that those who are reading this continue to believe in the mission of the Bel Air VFC and continue to trust us with your medical and fire emergencies.” In the coming weeks the Bel Air VFC will be conducting training for all members on the aspects of social media through varied legal experts.
It is unfortunate that, within the same week that volunteer fire organizations in
Harford County came together to perform flawlessly during the tornado event and
their good names have been tarnished by this childish behavior. It is important
for all to know that we as firefighters do this job because we want to and not
because we get something material out of it. Firefighters shouldn’t expect something for the job they do nor should they ask for it. Those firefighters
that do ask are in it for all the wrong reasons.