Fire Dept

Investigator findings in Police Chief complaints

Chief Fuchs cleared of most points

 

In January of 2017, a complaint was made by Sebastian Martinez, a Redding EMT, against Police Chief Douglas Fuchs. The complaint stems from an accident scene that occurred on December 27, 2016.

Martinez originally claimed that Chief Fuchs presence on scene made it a hostile workplace. When told that he could not claim hostile workplace because he did not work for the police dept, EMT Martinez then amended his claim to say that Fuchs hindered his ability to properly assess the patient.

Attorney Patrick McHale of Kainen, Escalera & McHale, P.C. was hired by the Redding Board of Selectman to investigate this claim, as well as a related complaint filed by Officer Pat Hamel, the police union president in regards to an interaction between Fuchs and Anthony Signore, an officer on the scene.

In the December 2016 event, a motorist lost control of her vehicle on Route 58 in the vicinity of Hopewell Woods Road. The car overturned and the driver was injured. She spent several hours in the car and by morning was able to climb out. A passing truck driver found her by the side of the road and called 911.

According to his testimony, Chief Fuchs was on his way to work, about to pass by so he became the first on the scene. He assessed her condition. Fuchs, as are most Redding officers, is an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR.)

The driver, who requested that her name not be used in this article, remembers grabbing the hand of the first responder because it was the first human contact after her ordeal. She remembers not wanting to let go and that she felt safe. She doesn’t recall whose hand she was holding, although all parties agree it was Chief Fuchs.

Fuchs also recalls that he kept his hand on her head to keep it steady to prevent further injury.

The driver, who lives in Stamford, remembers being covered with a blanket or jacket. She does not have any other recollection other than being taken to Danbury Hospital by ambulance.

The next person on the scene was Officer Anthony Signore. According to his testimony, he spent his time setting up the scene and with traffic control.

EMT Martinez arrived and claims that he was unable to do his job because Fuchs refused to move out of the way and let go of the driver’s hand. He said that when he tried to assess the patient, Fuchs insisted that he had already asked the pertinent questions. Martinez said that this uncooperative attitude was a pattern whenever he interacted with Chief Fuchs.

The Redding Police Department previously tried to mentor Martinez after he had some trouble as a youth. His juvenile court records are sealed but according to several sources, allegedly the charges involved arson.  Chief Fuchs didn’t work directly with Martinez and doesn’t remember any uncomfortable interaction nor did Martinez ever complain while working with RPD. Fuchs also only recalled one other time that he and Martinez interacted and that involved an incident at Meadow Ridge where Martinez was employed.

Fuchs testified that he tried to direct Martinez to care for the driver’s leg, which appeared to be deformed or broken. He also testified that not only did Martinez not give his attention to the injury, he did not appear to be following procedure.

The driver has told hello, Redding that she had broken her knee and some ribs. Although she was not unconscious, she does not have a clear recollection of events but had the impression that all had gone smoothly. She is grateful for the help she received and reports that she has healed, except for tinges in bad weather.

In his complaint, Martinez states that Officer Signore was a witness to the apparent disrespect that the chief was showing towards him. His superior, Fire Chief Sean McKenney later claims that “I was contacted by Patromen (sic). A. Signore regarding this incident. He expressed his willingness to speak with Whomever necessary regarding this incident. It is my understanding that he is the only witness.”

In his testimony, Officer Signore denies approaching Chief McKenney and said he was occupied with managing the scene so he did not witness Martinez’ account.

According to Fuchs testimony, Signore came to him to say that he did not concur with Martinez’ complaint because he was involved with traffic control. Signore also testified that only about 5 minutes passed between Martinez arrival the ambulance appearing. Martinez insists that there was a longer period of time, perhaps 10 minutes, where he interacted with Chief Fuchs at the scene.

Fuchs said that he asked Signore to initial an account he was preparing about the event that corresponded with the officer’s comments that he did not go to the fire chief nor did he see what they claimed.

Signore later said he was not comfortable having initialed the document but felt compelled because Chief Fuchs is his boss, and he was also aware that with budget cuts looming he knew he was last man hired and afraid that his job would be cut. Signore has been with the Redding Police Dept for many years and had originally earned the title of Sgt. He left to take a position with the New Canaan Police department. Signore did not find that department to be a good fit and was rehired by Redding shortly after. He came back on as an officer since he had forfeited his rank when he left when another officer was promoted to his place.

On March 27, 2017, Police Union President (Officer) Patrick Hamel filed a complaint against Chief Fuchs saying he had coerced Officer Signore into initialing the document.

Officer Signore refused to answer questions for this article but in his testimony with Attorney McHale, he did not deny that Chief Fuchs’ claims about their conversation were untrue.

It is also not clear if Signore requested or agreed to the complaint filed on his behalf.

Officer Hamel has also claimed and filed a complaint that Chief Fuchs retaliated against him because of the Signore complaint. This complaint was not covered in the original report by Attorney McHale, but is currently under investigation. This claim will be covered in a future article in hello, Redding. As will a complaint by EMT Sean Morris that pertains to the Valenti case.

 

Sebastian Martinez later worked at Meadow Ridge where he tried to file a claim saying an officer had pushed a resident. Martinez claims that Chief Fuchs did not let him file the claim but Fuchs denies this allegation, saying he referred it to Captain Mark O’Donnell, the Internal Affairs officer for RPD. O’Donnell said he gave the blank paperwork to Martinez and tried to follow up with him. Upon further investigation, Matthew Cassavechia, Director of Danbury Hospital Emergency Medical Services said there was no basis for Martinez’ claim. Meadow Ridge, Martinez employers, said he had to go through their chain of command to complain. Martinez did not follow up.

Chief Fuchs said he researched but could find no other interaction between himself and Martinez that could sustain the EMT’s claim that the two had a long history of the chief causing a bad environment.

 

hello Redding has FOIAed (Freedom of Information Act request) any records backing up these complaints. They will be shared once they become available.

Investigator findings

Attorney McHale released a report after carefully interviewing Chief Fuchs, EMT Martinez, Officer Signore, Fire Fighter William Dunn who was also on the scene, and Fire Chief Sean McKenney in person. RPD Communication supervisor Steven Schnell, Matthew Cassavechia from Danbury Hospital and Captain Mark O’Donnell were interviewed by phone.

There were 14 points in his report. 12 were unfounded/ not sustained. One was sustained and one was sustained/not sustained.

McHale stated that “While it is clear that Martinez and Fuchs were not communicating well at the accident scene on December 27, 2016, it cannot be concluded that Fuchs failed to cooperate with Martinez as, by his own admission, Martinez never asked Fuchs to step back from the patient to give him space to work and never asked Fuchs for any information Fuchs did not provide.”

Further, his conclusions stated that better communication could have prevented a lot of these issues.

A synopsis is as follows

  1. Chief Fuchs failed to cooperate with Mr. Martinez as he attempted to assess the needs of, and provide appropriate care for, an injured motor vehicle operator who was involved in an accident on December 27, 2016. Not Sustained.
    1. While it is clear that Martinez and Fuchs were not communicating well at the accident scene on December 27, 2016, it cannot be concluded that Fuchs failed to cooperate with Martinez as, by his own admission, Martinez never asked Fuchs to step back from the patient to give him space to work and never asked Fuchs for any information Fuchs did not provide.
  2. Chief Fuchs caused Mr. Martinez to feel belittled, demeaned and disregarded while at the December 27, 2016 call. Not Sustained.
    1. While the investigator does not doubt Mr. Martinez’s claim that he felt “belittled, demeaned and disregarded” while on the call, there is no evidence that Fuchs took any action to reasonably cause such feelings. Martinez’s feelings are derived mostly by what he perceived Fuchs’ “body language” to be, as he does not claim Fuchs said anything to him to cause his upset other than to tell him on two or three occasions that Fuchs had already asked the patient the same question Martinez was asking.
  3. Chief Fuchs harassed and/or created a hostile work environment for Mr. Martinez at the incident on December 27, 2016. Unfounded.
    1. No evidence was presented to the investigator by any of the witnesses to substantiate that Chief Fuchs harassed Mr. Martinez on December 27, 2016 or acted in a way that created a hostile environment.
  4. On or about February 8, 2017 Chief Fuchs prepared a written rebuttal to a complaint made by Mr. Martinez against Fuchs with regard to conduct on December 27, 2016 in which Fuchs made untruthful representations about Mr. Martinez. Sustained.
    1. What was not appropriate was for Fuchs to attack Martinez’s reputation, claiming that Martinez “has a history” with Redding Police Department as well as at least one other (unnamed) police department both in contacts as well as attitude since he was an adult. And his additional claim that Martinez “soured against the police” are both unfair and unprofessional characterizations and included in his memo to McKenney for the sole purpose of giving McKenney (and Pemberton) the impression that Martinez had a history of hostility towards law enforcement.
    2. Such conduct by Chief Fuchs constitutes conduct unbecoming an employee as set forth in Redding Policies and Procedures- Policy No. 24.0, and certainly not what should be expected from the Chief of Police. There was no appropriate reason for Chief Fuchs to include such characterizations of Mr. Martinez within his rebuttal to the claims Martinez had made regarding Fuchs’ conduct while on the December 27, 2016 call.
    3. Based upon these findings this allegation is Sustained and results in an additional finding of Misconduct Not Based on Original Complaint to the extent that Chief Fuchs, in his rebuttal to Martinez’s allegations, unfairly maligned Martinez’s reputation.
  5. Chief Fuchs coerced and harassed Officer Anthony Signore to sign off on some of the representations contained in your February 8, 2017 rebuttal. Not Sustained.
    1. Officer Signore told Chief Fuchs that he did not make the complaint. Chief Fuchs asked Officer Signore to sign the section of his rebuttal to substantiate that Officer Signore did not make the complaint. At no point did Signore ever tell Chief Fuchs he did not want wish to sign. When asked if he felt pressured from Chief Fuchs to sign, Officer Signore stated “I felt uncomfortable When specifically asked if “Chief Fuchs ever threatened you with any negative consequences if you didn’t sign”, Officer Signore indicated that Fuchs did not Officer Signore maintains that he never contacted Chief McKenney about the incident on December 27, 2016 Chief McKenney, in his testimony, contradicts Signore’s recollection. McKenney testified “I was contacted by Officer Signore prior to a complaint being filed by Sebastian Martinez. He had expressed that he felt there was some inappropriate interaction” More specifically, according to McKenney, Signore indicated “there was inappropriate interaction from Chief Fuchs directed towards Sebastian Martinez.”
  6. Chief Fuchs implied that if Officer Signore did not sign off on your representations his position with the Redding Police Department may be eliminated. Not Sustained.
    1. Signore did not provide any information to form the basis for a conclusion that Fuchs implied that Signore’s position might be eliminated if Signore did not initial Fuchs’ rebuttal.
  7. Chief Fuchs repeatedly threatened Officer Signore’s employment security in a manner that was designed to intimidate him so that he would sign off on a portion of your February 8, 2017 rebuttal memorandum. Not Sustained.
    1. Signore testified that Fuchs talked to him about the budget and the possibility of layoffs prior to February 8, 2017 “at least two, three, four times.” But Signore did not claim or provide any evidence to indicate Fuchs did so in order to intimidate him into initialing Fuchs’ rebuttal memo.
  8. Due to Chief Fuchs position of authority and implied threats against him, Officer Signore felt compelled to initial the February 8, 2017 rebuttal memorandum. Sustained in part and Not Sustained in part
    1. Due to his position as Police Chief, Officer Signore did feel compelled to initial Fuchs’ February 8, 2017 rebuttal memorandum. But that there is no substantiation for the claim that the Chief made implied threats against Signore.
    2. To be clear, Chief Fuchs showed poor judgment by unnecessarily involving Officer Signore in his written rebuttal to the allegations of Mr. Martinez, but the facts do not support the claim that Fuchs ever threatened Signore or even implied that Signore would be negatively treated in terms of his future employment if he did not initial his report to indicate that he never contacted Chief McKenney about the December 27, 2016 call.
  9. Chief Fuchs emailed Redding Police Union Executive Members and UPSEU Representative Ronald Suraci on March 6, 2017 and inferred that Officer Signore’s position may be eliminated if the Union did not acquiesce to his interpretation of the expiration date for the Promotional Sergeant’s List. Unfounded
    1. On March 6, 2017, Chief Fuchs sent an email to Police Union members regarding the subject of promotions to the rank of Sergeant. In it he wrote: “All, In an effort to reduce costs- and keep Anthony employed – I am trying to line up everything for next year. The Collective Bargaining Agreement
    2. There is no evidence to support the claim that in his email of March 6, 2017, Chief Fuchs inferred that Officer Signore’s position may be eliminated if the Union did not acquiesce to his interpretation of the expiration date for the Promotional Sergeant’s List. In fact, it should be noted that Chief Fuchs acquiesced to the Union President’s interpretation of the contract after respectfully debating the point with him.
  10. Chief Fuchs caused Mr. Martinez to be afraid of his safety due to his filing of his complaint regarding his conduct. Not Sustained
    1. In his civilian complaint that he completed, EMT Martinez checked the box “yes” next to the question “[a]re you afraid for your safety, or that of any other person, for any reason as a result of making this complaint?”
    2. Furthermore, he checked box “yes” next to the question “[h]as anyone threatened you or otherwise tried to intimidate you in an effort to prevent you from making this complaint?” However, both in his written explanation in support of his civilian complaint and during his testimony on July 26, 2017, Mr. Martinez did not provide any support for either claim.
  11. Chief Fuchs threatened Mr. Martinez or otherwise tried to intimidate him in an effort to prevent him from pursuing his complaint. Not Sustained
    1. Chief Fuchs’ response to Fire Chief McKenney challenges many of Mr. Martinez’s representations regarding the December 27, 2016 call but contains no threats against Mr. Martinez. During his testimony Mr. Martinez challenges many of Mr. Martinez’s representations regarding the December 27, 2016 call but contains no threats against Mr. Martinez. During his testimony Mr. Martinez provided no information which could form the basis for a conclusion that Chief Fuchs ever threatened him or otherwise tried to intimidate him in an effort to prevent him from pursuing his March 23, 2017 complaint.
  12. Chief Fuchs kept Mr. Martinez from filing a complaint about conduct of another police officer during a prior incident in which Redding police were involved at the Meadow Ridge complex. Not Sustained
    1. Mr. Martinez believes Chief Fuchs’ bias against him is largely due to Martinez’s expressed intention to file a civilian complaint against a Redding Police Officer regarding circumstances that occurred at the Meadow Ridge complex several years earlier. Martinez could not remember when that incident took place. He spoke with Captain O’Donnell about filing the complaint who later testified Martinez was told he needed to follow the “chain of command” by and with his employer. O’Donnell recalls that he invited Martinez to file his complaint at any time in the future if he changed his mind. But Martinez never did.
  13. That Chief Fuchs actions toward Mr. Martinez in response to his complaints following the December 27, 2016 incident were in retaliation for Mr. Martinez wanting to make a civilian complaint previously regarding the conduct of a police officer which Mr. Martinez witnessed at the Meadow Ridge complex. Not Sustained
    1. Based on the findings with respect to allegation 12, this allegation is Not Sustained.
  14. Chief Fuchs February 8, 2017 memorandum to Fire Chief McKenney contains libelous statements regarding Mr. Martinez’s performance of his duties as an emergency medical technician and his personal and professional character. Not Sustained
    1. Clearly, there are differences of opinion between Chief Fuchs and others regarding how EMT’s should respond to emergency calls but nothing contained in Chief Fuchs’ February 8, 2017 memorandum contains libelous statements regarding Mr. Martinez.

McHale ended his report by saying, “To be clear, Chief Fuchs exercised poor judgment by involving Signore in his rebuttal to McKenney’s allegation. His position of authority in the Police Department made it difficult, if not impossible, for Signore to feel he could reasonably decline the Chief’s request. Further, Chief Fuchs did inappropriately malign Mr. Martinez in his February 8, 2017 memo to Chief McKenney and for that he should be admonished as his behavior constituted conduct unbecoming an officer as set forth in Redding Police Department Policy 24.0.

But otherwise this investigator finds that the allegations made by Mr. Martinez and the Redding Police Union regarding the Chief Fuchs’ conduct are not sustained or are unfounded. “

McHale concluded the report saying, “The hard feelings that occurred on December 27, 2016 between Chief Fuchs and Sebastian Martinez could have been avoided if there was better communication between Martinez and Fuchs regarding their expectations of each other on that call. Further, the dispute that arose between Chief Fuchs and the Redding Police Union surrounding Officer Signore’s attesting to Chief Fuchs’ rebuttal to McKenney’s claim that Signore had approached him about the December 27, 2016 call, could have been avoided if there was better communication between Fuchs and Signore as well as between Signore and his Union representative. “

The entire report can be found here.

Letter of Reprimand

Based on the recommendation made in the report, First Selectman Julia Pemberton put a letter in Chief Fuchs’ personnel file. In it, he is admonished:

As you can see while the investigator concluded that most of the allegations made by Mr. Martinez and the Redding Police Union regarding your conduct are not sustained or are unfounded, the investigator has found that you have committed conduct unbecoming an employee of the Town as set forth in Redding Police Department Policy 24.0. This was due to your attack on Mr. Martinez’s character and reputation as contained in your February 8, 2017 memo to Fire Chief Sean McKenney of the Redding Fire and EMS Co. #1.

The investigator also found that you exercised poor judgment by unnecessarily involving Officer Anthony Signore in your written rebuttal to the allegations that were made by Fire Chief McKenney.

Based upon these findings I have decided to issue you a Written Reprimand for such conduct.

Rebuttal letter

Attorney Michael LaVelle, who represents Chief Fuchs, sent a letter to the Town expressing concerns regarding the handling of Chief Fuchs’ employment status including the need for an emergency meeting or the need for an emergency leave, calling it “an inaccurate impression of urgency and suggested that there was some risk associated with not proceeding on an emergency basis.” They also took task with Pemberton’s handling of a prepared statement at a public meeting.

The letter can be found here

 

The First Selectman has not released information about the investigations into the other complaints.

Douglas Fuchs has been the police chief in Redding for the past 15 years. He has received many citations and awards, and has built the police department into an independent unit after the resident state trooper program was disbanded.

hello, Redding made an additional FOIA request for any complaints against the Redding police department and /or Chief Fuchs. Apparently, there have not been many complaints because the only reports supplied had to do with the investigations touched on in this article, with the exception of the Gugla Abraham Dabela case. Dabela’s family does not believe the state medical examiners finding that their son died of a self inflicted wound, and have chosen to sue the town, the police officers involved in the investigation, Chief Fuchs and “Killer Doe.” That case is ongoing.

Although on paid leave, Douglas Fuchs is still Redding’s Police Chief and is available for consultation if needed by acting administrative officer Captain Mark O’Donnell. The length of the leave has not yet been determined.

Redding Fire & EMS No.1 Open House

Redding Fire & EMS No.1  Open House

The Redding Fire & EMS Company No. 1 will host an openhouse taking place at the Redding Ridge Firehouse, 186 Black Rock Turnpike, Redding, CT 06896, on Saturday, October 14, 2017, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Parking will be available just south of the firehouse and across the street at the field owned by St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church. Redding Fire Police personnel will assist visitors to safely walk the short distance to and from the fire station.

The event is intended to re-familiarize redding’s community with the fire companyoperation, to promote fire safety awareness, to raise awareness of volunteer opportunities at the fire company, and to provide an opportunity for the general public to meet their friends and neighbors who volunteer to protect the
community.

There will be displays, demonstrations, and fire apparatus rides. We will also host the Norwalk Fire Department’s fire safety trailer to familiarize guests of all ages on what to do to escape home fires.

In the event of rain, the fire company will announce on its facebook and web pages a delay to Sunday, October 15. Limited food will be available.

Details regarding the event and other fire company information can be found at the fire company’s website: http://reddingfire1.org and on facebook @reddingfire1

Volunteer Firefighter Day

On Sunday, April 23, 2017, 60 volunteer fire departments throughout the state will celebrate the start of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29, 2017) by holding open houses. West Redding Volunteer Fire Department will be participating in this special event by opening the doors to its fire house located at 306 Umpawaug Road in Redding from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Visitors to the fire house will be able to talk with volunteer firefighters about the work they do, explore fire apparatus and turnout gear, get a tour of the fire house, and fill out an application. For more information, visit www.westreddingfiredepartment.org on find the department on Facebook.

More than 80 percent of all fire personnel in Connecticut are volunteers, and the majority of fire departments throughout the state are experiencing a volunteer shortage. Local fire departments need volunteers of all skill levels and abilities, people willing and able to respond to emergencies whenever called upon.

Volunteer Firefighter Day is part of Everyday Hero CT, a program dedicated to increasing the number of volunteer firefighters throughout the state. A partnership of the Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association (CFCA) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Everyday Hero CT campaign is a two-year Volunteer Workforce Solutions (VWS) initiative designed to address the shortage of volunteer firefighters in Connecticut. It is helping achieve a viable and sustainable volunteer firefighter workforce for fire departments throughout Connecticut. Everyday Hero CT is funded by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant awarded to the CFCA by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a model to enhance the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.