How Fire Departments Are Like The Sopranos

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Longtime Reason reader (20+ years!) Kevin Mark Lambert sends along this heartwarming tale of municipal extortion in the great American city of Des Moines, Iowa:

Kathleen Carter, an 18-year veteran of the Des Moines Fire Department, was accused by a Des Moines businessman of using her position as a fire inspector to try to get a better deal on a lawn mower and snowblower she planned to purchase for herself….

According to police and fire department records, Carter was in uniform and working Sept. 30 when she went to Krumm Sales and Service, 825 E. University Ave., to shop for a lawn mower. While at the store, she told employees that their equipment-repair garage didn't have the required fire-safety permit and that she wanted to buy a mower.

Kim Hamilton, who works for a local printing company, told police he happened to be at Krumm when Carter was there. Hamilton told police he saw Carter put a hand on an employee's shoulder and say, "If you work with me, I'll work with you."

More here. This story has a happy ending–for the extortionist at least: "The fire chief wrote that the woman could have been fired, but he chose to be 'very lenient.'" So that means instead of getting shitcanned, Carter was demoted "from fire inspector to firefighter [which] will reduce her annual pay from $59,093 to $50,187."

NEXT: Couldn't They Just Pretend to Arrest Them?

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  1. Geez, what’s this world coming to when you can’t even abuse your minor power to get a cheap lawn mower?

  2. $50,187 goes a long way in Iowa.

  3. $50,187 buys alot of corn.

  4. The article says that she maintains that she did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the chief’s decision. The article also says that she was given a lenient punishment because she showed remorse.

  5. Somebody with a little bit of power decided to use it for personal gain…I?m not at all surprised. The cops in my community abuse their power all the time. If the fire inspector is actually guilty, she should be fired from her job.

  6. Somebody with a little bit of power decided to use it for personal gain…I?m not at all surprised. The cops in my community abuse their power all the time. If the fire inspector is actually guilty, she should be fired from her job.

  7. Somebody with a little bit of power decided to use it for personal gain…I?m not at all surprised. The cops in my community abuse their power all the time. If the fire inspector is actually guilty, she should be fired from her job.

  8. their equipment-repair garage didn’t have the required fire-safety permit

    Was that actually the case, or was she just making it up? If it’s true, shouldn’t she be fired for not fining them?

    And what the hell do they feed their women in Iowa? Not only is she a firefighter, but she was using he power to buy a freakin’ lawnmower. Maybe I’ll look her up, a $50k surgarmomma sounds pretty good about now.

  9. Her pay was cut ~20% and she lost her cushy assignment. Now she gets to work 12 hour shifts and put herself in harm’s way. That’s not exactly a trivial punishment.

  10. I don’t get it. I thought that soliciting a bribe was a criminal offense in most jurisdictions. If this is the case in Iowa, the Iowa LP could get some good publicity by filing charges against this woman.

  11. Thanks for blogging this, Nick. Though, I might point out that it was Mark Lambert (and not “Kevin”) who told you about it!!
    🙂
    –Mark Lambert

  12. >Now she gets to work 12 hour shifts and put herself in harm’s way.

    They’re probably 24 hour shifts. She still oughtta be charged though.

  13. Dear Mark:

    You sure your name isn’t Kevin?

    Apologies.

  14. How can she feel remorse for something she says she didn’t do?

  15. $59,093 a year to go shopping.
    Makes me proud that I’m no longer a taxpayer.

    “I don’t get it. I thought that soliciting a bribe was a criminal offense in most jurisdictions.”

    1: The State’s employees generally stick together.
    2: She’s just a girl and therefore not legally responsible for her behavior.

  16. City records indicate that Carter was previously disciplined for purchasing liquor while in uniform. Carter said that incident involved a 1999 dispute with a store clerk over a broken bottle of liquor.

    “I called the police because he treated me condescendingly,” she said. “I’m a black female and I don’t like to be made to feel otherwise . . . “

    What, she was made to feel like a white man? Non-whites and non-males have been aspiring to that feeling for centuries.

    And hang on a second – she called the police because someone treated her condescendingly?

    She sounds like a real keeper. No wonder the chief decided to be very lenient on her.

  17. The article says that she maintains that she did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the chief’s decision. The article also says that she was given a lenient punishment because she showed remorse.

    That hurts my head.

  18. I want to know what the hell the local DA is up to. This is a felony, not just an administrative issue for the fire department.

    -jcr

  19. “Nice store you got here. I’d sure hate for anything bad to happen to it…”

  20. Ya know Reason, this website seems kinda dangerous. Its kinda almost terrorist-like. Might have to call the FBI. So how much does a subscription cost me?

  21. I am reminded of an episode of the all-too-shortlived TV series Police Squad, when Det. Frank Dreben goes undercover as a small business owner (key and lock maker) to bust a protection racket.

    MOBSTER: Nice little key store you got here.

    FRANK: What about my little keister?

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