Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Body snatching should't be legal

Most of you would agree, I hope, that body snatching should be against the law. But my previous post about ADA accomodations for firefighters reminds me that Norwalk has been told that body snatching is a legal right. At least, a policeman who snatches bodies while in uniform cannot be fired for cause. [Note: this link is now dead. Current links with similar information can be found in the Connecticut Law Tribune and at ]

NORWALK, CONNECTICUT – The city will not appeal a state Labor Department ruling to reinstate police officer Liam Callahan, a nine-year veteran fired last fall for taking a skull fragment from the scene of a May 2005 accident.


Callahan was one of the first officers on the scene of the accident last year on Flax Hill Road that killed Alfred Caviola, 62, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

According to the panel’s report, Callahan, who was assigned to direct traffic at the one-car accident, picked up “a small skull fragment”; told an officer at the scene he intended to keep it; placed it in his duty bag and placed the bag in his locker; and reported the fragment to a superior officer two days later, after being confronted by the head of the police union.

The panel concluded that Callahan’s testimony that he had forgotten about the fragment was not credible and called his handling of the body part “negligent” and “offensive.”

But the panel supported the police union’s contention that the skull fragment was not evidence in the accident investigation and that Callahan had been excessively disciplined.


“To state that it’s not crucial to the investigation is true. It’s not a piece of evidence,” Rilling said. “But it still needs to be treated with dignity and respect. I doubt whether any officer, including Officer Moerler, would find it acceptable to kick a piece of remains into the bushes.”

According to his colleagues, Officer Callahan intended to use the skull fragment to make an ashtray. Am I hopelessly out of date to think that "Dignity and respect" is the least we should expect from our government?

Disability law runs amok in Norwalk

According to the the Norwalk Advocate, the city of Norwalk, Connecticut has been told, in essence, that timed exams for firefighters violate the ADA:
STAMFORD - A state human rights investigator has faulted the city for denying a learning-disabled firefighter's request for extra time on a test for captain's rank, documents show.

The city has defended its handling of the request, claiming fire captains must be able to read and interpret information quickly at emergency scenes. But disability rights experts said the city likely violated rules for disability cases and criticized its lack of a standardized procedure for employees who request extra time and other accommodations.
The city argues, in essence, that this is stark raving mad:
The reasoning is that lieutenants and captains are in charge at emergency scenes and have to make split-second decisions, Wirzbicki and other city officials said. Those decisions often are based on floor plans, hazardous material reports and similar documents, they said.

Speed is an "essential function of the job," the city argued. If Lenotti couldn't finish the test on time, it means he doesn't have the quick reading, writing and thinking skills necessary to be a captain, they said.

"You don't get extra time at a fire scene" ...

But alas, the notion that the Fire Department's purpose is to keep people from dying horribly in fires does not cut any ice with the lawyers:
"You're supposed to give accommodations, period," said Suzanne Kitchen, a clinical instructor and consultant for the Job Accommodation Network, a federally funded non-profit that provides employers with advice on disability rights. "No is never the right answer."

This reminds me, sadly, of the hundreds of firefighters who volunteered to help with Hurricane Katrina, only to be sent to Georgia for mandatory sexual harassment training.