D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Ellerbe: 'We took immediate action'
The stories-tall motto outside the D.C. Fire and EMS training academy in Washington reads “Honor, Commitment, Dedication.”
But a number of young female cadets, only a month into their apprenticeship, may be questioning those department ideals.
ABC7 has learned that at least two cadets have accused two instructors of sexual harassment.
Cadets within the program tell ABC7 the officers commented on the young women's figures in an offensive manner.
One parent, who asked we don't identify her, is furious. While she says her daughter was not among those allegedly harassed, she believes changes must be made.
“They should never be subjected to that type of treatment or behavior,” the woman says. “I hope that they get some kind of conclusion information that can protect these young girls in the future."
D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, outside D.C. Council Chambers, at first said he didn't want to say much.
"All those matters have been referred to our EEOC counselor and I have to leave it there. Sorry,” he said.
Later he insisted everything is being done to handle this matter properly.
"We took immediate action to remove those members from the presence of our cadets and continued class,” he says. “The ladies have asked that we keep this matter confidential and we've done our best to do that until this matter is completely resolved."
But the chief claims the allegations are not sexual in nature.
“What we believe happened was more some inappropriate language and touching not of a sexual nature but the matter made the ladies uncomfortable,” he says.
The councilmember who has oversight over the fire department is demanding a full and transparent investigation.
“If the allegations are true, then it's very troubling,” said D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells.
Thursday at 8:16 p.m., Lon Walls, DC Fire/EMS Communications Director issued the following statement to news media outlets.:
DISTRICT FIRE AND EMS CHIEF KENNETH ELLERBE’S RESPONSE TO A WJLA-TV NEWS STORY
ABC7 reported earlier today that the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct at the Department’s Training Academy. According to preliminary information I received, the allegations presented in the ABC7 report are inaccurate and misleading. No employee has made an allegation of physical sexual misconduct. There are also no allegations involving shaking behinds or comments about an employee’s breast as reported by ABC7. We take any allegation of inappropriate conduct very seriously. Once a concern was raised immediate action was taken to separate the various parties and to properly investigate the matter. A full and thorough investigation is underway. It is anticipated that the initial phase of the investigation will be completed shortly. Once the investigation has concluded appropriate action, if warranted, will be taken. – Kenneth B. Ellerbe, Chief, District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services