NM fire department examines DWI policies

2 firefighters have been placed on paid administrative leave after being arrested on suspicion of DWI within 2 weeks of each other

By Rozanna M. Martinez
The Albuquerque Journal

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Two firefighters with Rio Rancho Fire Rescue have been placed on paid administrative leave after being arrested on suspicion of DWI within about a week and half of each other.

Now, the department has launched two separate internal investigations on each case and is comparing their policies and procedures with other area fire departments to see if changes need to be made, according to Rio Rancho Fire Rescue spokesman battalion chief Paul Bearce.

Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Capt. Jeremy Martinez, 34, and firefighter Mary Ann Philips, 30, will remain on leave pending the internal investigations.

"First of all, it's a little disheartening when you have public safety people, who have a higher standard, find themselves in a situation they do now with a DWI," Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack said Friday. "I think these two individuals have been exemplary employees but made a bad decision."

Swisstack said the alleged actions of the two firefighters do not represent the entire department, "but it warrants continued investigations to see whether or not we need to be more repetitive with our training and more consistent with the message of their ethical responsibility to the public."

The department is in contact with other local agencies to compare their policies and procedures to determine whether Rio Rancho Fire Rescue's need to be altered, according to Bearce.

However, Bearce said the department's current policy is strict and all personnel are made aware that a DWI charge could place staff in jeopardy of losing their job. He said all personnel are made aware of the policy during their training, and also must sign a receipt of receiving a physical copy of that policy.

He said the department is considering more training to ensure personnel know the policy.

A criminal complaint states Martinez was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after being pulled over early Thursday by Albuquerque police on Oak NE. He allegedly ran a stop sign. A breath test later measured Martinez's blood-alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent, the complaint reads. The state's presumed level of intoxication is 0.08.

Philips was pulled over Dec. 18 by Albuquerque police on Eagle Ranch NW after an officer saw the car she was driving swerving and straddling traffic lanes, a criminal complaint states. A breath test later measured her blood-alcohol concentration at 0.16 percent. She was arrested on suspicion of aggravated DWI.

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal

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