Report shows failed alcohol tests for firefighters

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INDIANAPOLIS - Public outrage over a deadly crash involving a city police officer accused of drunk driving raises new questions about the city's drug and alcohol testing practices. 13 Investigates has uncovered exclusive new reports that show other public safety workers caught on the job with alcohol in their systems.

Getting behind the wheel of a 13-ton fire truck racing to save lives, city firefighters are warned: their boots have no room for hangovers or clouded judgment.

Now, 13 Investigates has learned, random alcohol test results found firefighters showing up for duty, failing breathalyzer tests set by the department.

"It's just a dangerous situation, when that occurs and certainly we have concern over it," said Indianapolis Fire Chief Brian Sanford.

Records released exclusively to 13 Investigates for a two-year period, prior to the deadly crash involving IMPD officer David Bisard, show an IFD private, a lieutenant, and a captain all tested higher than .04. The legal definition of driving drunk is .08.

City officials aren't saying how much alcohol was detected, but insists the firefighters were not drunk.

"They were all three below the .08, in most arenas considered intoxicated. This doesn't mean they were drinking on duty, it probably means there was some poor judgment used," the chief told 13 Investigates.

Under city code, "An employee with a confirmed alcohol test of .04 or greater will be suspended for 240 hours without pay and required to enter a chemical dependency monitoring program."

A new Public Safety policy now in effect says any firefighter or police officer who tests .02 or more will face discipline.

"They are doing random testing, they are finding this," said City County Councilman Ben Hunter, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

Just like Officer David Bisard, 13 Investigates wanted to know of prior incidents involving the firefighters. Initially, the city attorneys refused to release the records, but later turned them over.

"You should rest assured as a taxpayer that an individual that is working in public works, no matter what the position is with the city, that they're going to be free and clear of being under the influence of any type of drug or alcohol," added Hunter, who wants to see all city employees under the same policy.

Two of the firefighters at Station 4, had previous infractions with Washington Township before merging with IFD. They were both disciplined for accidents with ambulances. One of them was also in the drivers seat of a fire engine on a run to 9500 North Meridian Street when he crashed into a vehicle and injured the other driver.

An incident review board ruled the accident preventable. He received a written reprimand for driving violations, hitting a fixed object and striking a pedestrian. There was no mention of an alcohol test.

"Any second occurrence is moved for termination," explained the chief. "So it isn't like people are having positive tests one after the other and still on the job."

By the end of last year, another Indianapolis firefighter tested over the department limit. We are not naming the firefighters because they did not break state law and were not charged criminally.

Chief Sanford says second chances are allowed, because the violation levels are strict and lower than you would face driving your own car.