THE D.C. FIRE lieutenant who was accused of failing to help an elderly man as he suffered a fatal heart attack won’t be held accountable for her actions. The development, sad to say, comes as no surprise. Indeed, we pretty much predicted there would be no real reckoning for the bungled treatment of Medric Cecil Mills because of policies and practices that historically have shielded the ineptitude of the department’s personnel.
Lt. Kellene Davis had been brought up on administrative charges of neglect of duty for actions connected with the Jan. 25 case of Mr. Mills. The 77-year-old man was stricken outside Ms. Davis’s Northeast fire station, but requests for assistance were spurned by personnel who said 911 had to be called.
Ms. Davis escaped meaningful punishment because she was able to retire before the disciplinary panel that heard her case issued its ruling. Trial board actions for three other firefighters involved in the incident are scheduled for next month.
Under the contract agreement with the firefighters union, Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe had to await action by the trial board. To his credit, he had refused Ms. Davis’s request for immediate retirement, forcing a 60-day delay in the hope of a ruling. The board concluded its hearings on March 22 but privately announced its findings — still secret and now moot — hours after Ms. Davis’s retirement became final on April 10. The lack of urgency in this high-profile case is as troubling as the lack of transparency that saw the trial board close its hearings to the public. Among those denied entry was Mr. Mills’s daughter. A lawyer for the family rightly called the internal disciplinary system “inadequate and unjust.”
Even if there had been an adverse ruling against Ms. Davis, it’s unlikely her pension — about 70 percent of her $100,000 annual salary — would have been affected. But timely action and a public airing of the facts and findings about culpability would have sent a clear and strong message about unacceptable behavior. The trial board’s failure to do so goes a long way toward explaining the culture of indifference that allowed Mr. Mills to gasp for air while those who should have helped him stood by and did nothing.
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