Fire station sex allegations lead to surveillance

- Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne Instructed the fire chief to explore installing and operating surveillance cameras inside and outside the city's eight fire stations after several incidents of sexual misconduct were reported inside the buildings. 

Cameras were first recommended in 2012, after a fire lieutenant was caught having sexual relations with non-employee females while on duty. Evidence against him included a cell phone selfie video shot during intercourse inside a station bathroom. 

Despite the recommendation for cameras to monitor who entered and left fire stations, Horne decided against it.  

"We did not believe, because it was the first incident that I was aware of that we've ever had like that, that it necessarily required that kind of measure," Horne explained Tuesday. 

Since 2012, there have been two more cases of improprieties, including an allegation against another lieutenant and female subordinate. This time, human resources recommended cameras inside and outside, and Horne agreed. 

"Clearly the outside cameras will become a reality," Horne said. "Inside, our feeling is - common areas... You wouldn't necessarily have them in rooms, you wouldn't have them necessarily in the kitchens." 

However hallways, truck bays and lounging areas might be video recorded.  Horne said interior cameras would not record audio.

In addition to cameras, assistant fire chiefs have been asked to spend more time monitoring the lieutenants who are in charge of fire stations on a daily basis. 

Calling all three cases "completely avoidable and a failure of leadership," Horne said lieutenants should no longer feel free to disregard city policies and procedures. 

"We do think we need to beef up the oversight, and we've already discussed an approach that our assistant chiefs will take," he said.

Clearwater Firefighter's Association President Sean Becker said rank-and-file firefighters have requested outdoor surveillance cameras in the past, in large part to protect personal vehicles while they are on duty. 

Becker said the prospect of cameras inside fire stations is still being considered by the union and vetted by its legal counsel.

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