• Firefighter pulled over for DUI still driving fire trucks

    By: Linzi Sheldon

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - A Seattle firefighter arrested for drunk driving off-duty is still driving Seattle fire trucks.

    The firefighter, Joseph Dempsey, 47, has worked for the Seattle Department for 17 years.

    Police arrested him just before midnight on March 29 after finding him passed out in a black Chevy Tahoe waiting in traffic at 5th Avenue and Mercer Street. His blood alcohol concentration was .176 at the scene. Police officers described him with "droopy" eyelids and unable to properly recite the alphabet.

    Dempsey admitted to officers he had previous DUI arrests.

    Read the narrative from the Seattle police report here. (Redactions were made by police).

    KIRO 7 discovered he was arrested in 2012 for DUI and pleaded it down to reckless driving; he was also arrested in 1994 for DUI and pleaded it down to negligent driving.

    Seattle Municipal Court reviewed the case and decided he must use an ignition interlock device on his personal car to test his breath until the case is resolved.

    Fire officials refused to do any on-camera interviews.

    Spokesperson Kyle Moore said Dempsey is a "current driver" at Fire Station 28 on Rainier Avenue South.

    "Members who are arrested for driving under the influence are encouraged to seek an assessment and/or participate in the employee assistance program to determine whether or not they need treatment," he wrote in an email.

    "It's disappointing," Lauren Thompson, who just applied for a lease on an apartment across the street, said. "I mean, these are people that are meant to protect... that would be my neighbor across the street. I wouldn't feel comfortable with that."

    But other city agencies and departments have much stricter standards when it comes to employees and DUIs.

    The Seattle Police Department said an officer in this situation would not be allowed to drive a patrol car.

    The Seattle Department of Transportation said one of its employees in this scenario would not be allowed to drive a city vehicle.

    Seattle Public Utilities said the same thing.

    Thompson wants to know why the fire department is different.

    "You're putting us at risk," she said. "You're putting this neighborhood at risk, you're putting the department at risk."

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