Firefighters demoted for drug use after death investigation

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — One New Britain fire official has been fired and seven other firefighters have been disciplined following an investigation into drug use at firehouses around the Connecticut city, the mayor said.

The investigation began after the apparent drug-related death of a 36-year-old off-duty firefighter in his home in January. The results of toxicology tests are pending, but evidence obtained during the criminal investigation led to an administrative review, Mayor Erin Stewart said Tuesday.

A lieutenant in the department was fired in February after that investigation showed he was “knowingly supplying, giving, selling, sharing and using illegal drugs and (his) prescription Adderall pills, and had lied about it,” according to a termination letter from Stewart that was first obtained by The Hartford Courant.

The other seven, including four with the rank of lieutenant or above, have been required to take 30 days of unpaid leave, demoted to the rank of private and placed on probation for three years, during which time they cannot seek promotion and will be subject to random drug testing, the mayor said.

“I don’t think that ‘drug ring’ is the right term to use,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “I think that these guys were all friends, in work and outside of work. Some of them worked in the same companies, but at the end this spanned every company that we have.”

Stewart said officials have no evidence that any member of the public was ever put in danger or any of the firefighters were ever impaired while on a call, though she acknowledged that is a possibility. She said the drug use dated back several years and involved prescription Adderall as well as fentanyl, heroin and marijuana.

The criminal investigation is ongoing to determine where the illegal drugs originated, but no charges have been filed against any firefighter and none are expected, Stewart said.

She said the investigation showed it was not a case of someone in the department serving as a dealer and selling the illegal drugs to the others.

“Were there instances of that? Yes, there was proof of that here and there,” she said. “There was obviously someone they were all getting these drugs from, but I couldn’t tell you who that was. It wasn’t someone affiliated with the department.”

The mayor said she initially wanted to fire all of those involved, but decided to allow those who came forward and detailed the extent of the problem to keep their jobs.

“I’m confident that the investigations that the chief and assistant chief conducted got to the bottom of the problem and that we’ve put procedures in place to fix it and make sure that is doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Several other firefighters have resigned since the death in January.

Stewart is calling on the firefighter’s union to work with the city and develop a drug-testing policy.

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