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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2005

Demotion urged for city fire captain

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Armstrong Armstrong
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A Toledo fire captain has been recommended for permanent demotion after he passed off a medical emergency run and instead used his department vehicle to drop off blueprints at his house under construction in Sylvania Township.

Capt. Larry Armstrong, 41, a nearly 20-year veteran who also is a paramedic, should be demoted to lieutenant and receive a 36-day suspension for his actions while on duty earlier this year, according to a recommendation by Fire Chief Mike Bell. The recommendation, obtained by The Blade, does not state whether the suspension should be without pay, and the chief was unavailable yesterday for comment.

Safety Director Joe Walter has 15 days to make a decision on the chief's recommendation.

"I'm torn apart inside," Captain Armstrong, who is assigned to Station 23 on West Laskey Road, said yesterday. "I take great pride in what I do as a firefighter. I'm sorry about what I did, that I had a lapse of judgment. I'm very remorseful for what I did."

However, Captain Armstrong said he will appeal if the safety director's ruling follows the chief's recommendation.

The captain appeared at a hearing April 14 for violation of department rules regarding the Feb. 7 incident in which he was a passenger in Rescue 23, an emergency vehicle driven by a firefighter. He pleaded guilty to administrative charges that he authorized and directed Rescue 23 to travel to his homesite at 4951 Westminster Rd. for personal reasons on Feb. 7 and on multiple other occasions.

He also pleaded guilty to telling fire dispatch that Rescue 23 was at Laskey and Talmadge roads on Feb. 7 after it had arrived at the Westminster address when the unit was contacted by dispatch and asked for its location.

Chief Bell found him guilty of several charges to which the captain pleaded not guilty. They included instructing his firefighter driver to proceed to the Westminster address after Rescue 23 was dispatched to 5601 Clegg Drive on a medical emergency.

Captain Armstrong is accused of then contacting dispatch and telling dispatch to give the run to Engine 23, which was in quarters at the West Laskey Road station. The charges indicate the emergency run was an advanced life support incident, to which Life Squad 4 also was dispatched.

Captain Armstrong said the call initially came in as a basic life support run that Engine 23 could handle. He said that the blueprint he was dropping off at his homesite was for an inspection that was going to occur within the hour.

"As the only paramedic on duty at station No. 23 that day, Captain Armstrong neglected his duty by placing personal business ahead of service to the community," the charges state. "His choice, to take himself and his Rescue Unit to the extreme edge of and out of his district for personal business, is not a justification for passing an emergency on to other units. This choice resulted in the responding unit having BLS [Basic Life Support] capability only, not the ALS [Advance Life Support] capability that should have been available."

Deputy Chief Bob Metzger said yesterday the Clegg run was adequately handled by the other units and there was no impact on patient care.

Other charges Chief Bell also found the captain guilty of included: leaving the district covered by Station 23 without a first responder after deferring the emergency run to Engine 23, not getting permission from the battalion chief prior to leaving quarters, and directing the driver of Rescue 23 to go to his property instead of immediately addressing a cooling system problem on the emergency vehicle that he was made aware of two hours earlier.

Deputy Chief Metzger said Captain Armstrong's record with the department has been generally good, though fire department records indicate the captain has had at least one prior disciplinary problem.

Chief Bell's recommendation indicates the captain had "a previous charge in which 2 days were held in abeyance" and calls for those two days also to be served. The deputy chief said he was not familiar with the circumstances of that charge.

Contact Christina Hall at

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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