Firefighter to be ousted, boss says Board found veteran guilty of hitting girl, 12, while on duty

'Charges are so strong'

Until final hearing, medical technician off work without pay

April 12, 1996|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

A veteran county firefighter and emergency medical technician accused of punching an unruly 12-year-old patient in the face will be fired, Fire Department administrator Stephen D. Halford said yesterday.

Mr. Halford approved a recommendation from the Fire Department's hearing board calling for the dismissal of Michael L. Swain.

The hearing board earlier this week found the six-year veteran guilty of departmental charges of conduct unbecoming a Fire Department employee, using offensive language and behaving discourteously to the public.

Mr. Swain also was found guilty of violating the county code for conduct unbecoming a county employee, Fire Department spokesman J. Gary Sheckells said.

"The evidence against this individual is so overwhelming and so egregious that I have to go with this recommendation," Mr. Halford said. "It's so tragic that the actions of just an instant can terminate someone's career, but the nature of our jobs require that when dealing with the public we maintain a proper restraint. We have situations every day where we have combative patients and we don't strike them."

Mr. Swain will remain suspended without pay until an April 23 termination hearing before Mr. Halford, where he has a final opportunity to plead his case.

"He can try to persuade me [not to fire him], but the charges are just so strong and the evidence is there," Mr. Halford said. "It is unlikely that I would change my mind."

The charges against Mr. Swain, 44, of the 2300 block of Sandy Mount Road in Finksburg, stem from an incident Feb. 21 in which he is accused of punching a 12-year-old girl in the face.

Mr. Swain was called to a house in the 1700 block of Richfield Drive in Severn to take the girl for a psychiatric evaluation. Police could not take her to the hospital in a cruiser because she was biting, kicking and spitting, police said.

When an officer told Mr. Swain about the girl's behavior, he threatened to slap her if she spat on him, according to a police report.

As the girl's family was putting her on the stretcher, she spat into the air and Mr. Swain "drew his right hand backward over his head and struck the child in the face with a clenched fist," a police report said.

Police said that Mr. Swain cursed the girl immediately afterward.

Mr. Swain was charged criminally with assault by county police and is scheduled to stand trial June 14.

A three-member board that included a deputy chief from the Fire Department, a civilian appointed by County Executive John G. Gary and a representative of the firefighter's union, spent four hours Tuesday night listening to testimony from the two police officers on the scene, other firefighters and a friend of the girl's family who witnessed the incident.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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