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Oregon fire captain arrested for third DUI to be demoted, but why won’t chief fire him?

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Portland Fire Chief Erin Janssens, courtesy Facebook

PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — It’s something the chief of Portland Fire and Rescue said she never thought would happen: a fire captain arrested three times for driving drunk. Now, she says his criminal behavior off the clock will mean a new policy for all Portland firefighters.

“We didn’t have any policy,” Portland Fire Chief Erin Janssens said. “I don’t think anybody ever imagined that someone would be arrested for DUII repeatedly.”

But someone has. Officers have arrested a Portland fire captain three times for being drunk behind the wheel. Janssens says, because of that, it’s time to put new disciplinary standards in place.

“I think having a clear policy is going to be helpful for everyone,” she said.

There currently is no policy that says how firefighters should be disciplined for DUII.

Last March when Robert Hutchens caused a wreck near the coast and racked up his third drunk driving arrest, he had not been punished by the bureau before.

Wednesday, the chief made an agreement to demote Hutchens from fire captain to firefighter. It also says if he gets arrested for driving drunk in the next five years he’ll be fired.

“It is a very significant demotion. It is just short of being terminated,” she said. “We felt that this was the most likely discipline that would stick given the current circumstances of no previous discipline.”

She said part of the reason he wasn’t punished in the past was because there is no DUII policy in place. She also said there is no policy, because cases like Hutchens are rare.

“I don’t think it’s been a problem for repeated offenses,” Janssens said.

But, court records show, Hutchens isn’t the only Portland firefighter with one or more drunk driving arrests. Many of those occurred before Janssens became fire chief.

“We need to have a policy and we need to make it very clear what the consequences will be,” she said.

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman oversees the department. He, Janssens and the fire union will work together to decide what new guidelines may be established.

“I just want to make sure there are firm consequences in place for any offense related to substance abuse,” Saltzman said.

When that may happen, and what the policy will be, neither office can say at this point.

“I feel apologetic to our public that this happened, that one of our firefighters had three DUIs. It’s just not acceptable,” Saltzman said.

“We owe it to the public and we owe it to ourselves to be safe, contributing members of the community every day of our lives,” Janssens said. “That’s part of our commitment to the public.”

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3 comments

  • Mr Arshole

    I would sue if i was the firefighter.
    There is currently no policy in place.
    It was off the clock as we do not did not affect his work.
    Whats sad is three times
    Whats up with our justice system.
    Should be killed. Just kidding.

  • Kenneth Briggs

    see the cops bust the drunks and the courts let the damn drunks go . lets hope this guy hits and kills a judge or a family member then maybe he will let the drunk live with him for his jail time .

  • ShadowWalker59

    I beg your pardon, it most certainly IS a problem, even if you’re caught the first time! A drunk, any drunk, is one of the most dangerous things running around on this planet, and yet, people just want to either laugh it off or say something stupid like…..’Oh, everyone makes a mistake’. Like that’s an excuse to tolerate drinking and driving!! What is it with people who think that DUI’s are not so bad? ONCE, is all it takes to kill someone, and it could be someone you know. Only then, it’s not so very acceptable. Slam the dork, take his license away, and IF he is caught one more time……..it’s time to take his car, because he’s not responsible enough to stay out of an automobile and drive while drunk!! I, personally have no tolerance for drunk drivers.

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