INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis firefighter was placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into a claim of sexual assault involving a paramedic.
The victim is a paramedic with the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services and questions have been raised about how those claims were first handled.
The paramedic reported the sexual assault in June, but it wasn’t until late Friday afternoon that police questioned the victim.
The victim said the incident occurred after a married on-duty firefighter offered to drive her home from a downtown concert after she apparently had consumed too much alcohol.
In the victim's own words, she said the incident began to unfold the night of June 27 at a concert in White River State Park. She said the firefighter, whom she described as a colleague and friend, stopped by the concert to visit.
When the victim said she had too much to drink, the firefighter offered to drive her home in his department-assigned vehicle.
In her official statement, the victim said she awoke in her apartment and observed the firefighter performing a sex act on her. "I called his name," she said, "told him to stop, and he did."
On June 30, the alleged victim went back to work and reported the incident to her shift commander and the IEMS human resources coordinator.
She asked for and was assigned to another shift, but it wasn’t until July 22 that the IFD command staff asked her for a written statement of the alleged incident.
Shortly after the incident, the victim told Patrick Hutchison, an IEMS instructor, about the allegations.
In her official statement, the victim said that Hutchison "expressed concerns about the turmoil an official investigation could bring to me, the firefighter, IEMS and IFD."
Her statement went on to say that Hutchison took it upon himself to contact the alleged perpetrator and suggest a private resolution, avoiding IFD involvement.
In her official statement to the IFD command staff, the victim said that despite Hutchison's intervention, she wanted no contact with her alleged perpetrator. She went on to say that she's had no communication with him since the incident.
In a July 23 email to the deputy chief of IFD administration, titled "firefighter statement," Hutchison said he told the perpetrator that the paramedic felt violated and distressed and that he needed to "acknowledge and ask forgiveness."
Hutchison's official report to IFD ended by saying that the firefighter was hopeful he could apologize and said the incident was making him sick and gave him sleepless nights.
Earlier Friday, IEMS issued a statement saying that since the alleged offense didn’t occur on EMS property, nor did it involve an on-duty employee, none of their policies would apply.
As far as the advice and counsel from instructor Patrick Hutchison, IEMS officials said he was merely expressing his personal opinion alone because of his friendship to both parties.
Indianapolis Fire Chief Ernest Malone said he was comfortable with how his department has handled the investigation.
"On the day that IFD was contacted, I can't speak to what happened before that, the day IFD was contacted, the complainant was contacted and a meeting was scheduled. On the day the information was received by the chief's office, it was reviewed and a decision was made to take the very serious action of turning it over to the Special Investigation Unit," Malone said.
Police concluded their interview with the paramedic late Friday afternoon. The firefighter was placed on paid administrative duties until the investigation plays out. At the very least, he faces numerous violations of department policy.
Reporting sexual assault in the workplace
The case sheds light on what an employer’s obligation is when it comes to handling sexual abuse allegations involving the workplace.
Attorneys said employees should expect their office to have a policy that provides a variety of ways for a victim to report a situation.
An employee should expect a thorough investigation. Officials said that is not just in the interest of the employee, it benefits the company too.
"They may want to do that in order to protect themselves to say that we took all appropriate action to make sure that this physical or violent behavior stopped," said attorney Sandra Blevins with Betz and Blevins law firm.
If an employee feels that an office is not properly investigating a complaint, he or she can file a charge with the federal agency that enforces employment laws -- the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If the EEOC cannot determine fault, an employee then has 90 days to pursue the case in federal court.
It is important to emphasize these are only general guidelines. What goes into an investigation and the level of liability for an employer can differ from case to case.