A FDNY “Bravest” and Fentanyl

Jan 24, 2018 by

An active-duty New York City firefighter was busted last week by a team of local and federal officers upon accepting a controlled-delivery of Chinese fentanyl that he had allegedly purchased online.

According to the New York Post report, authorities claim that he admitted importing the opioid, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, with the intent of selling it on the streets. He did not, however, enter a plea on the sole charge of importation of a controlled substance.

Overdoses killed more Americans last year than car accidents. Fentanyl deaths are up 540% over three years. It is a national epidemic that is recognized by people of all political orientations and social attitudes and across the spectrum of all demographics.

It requires emergency legislation and intensified intervention. Survivors of fallen victims are haunted by psychological trauma.

The firefighter appeared so stoned in court that the judge told him “You may be too affected by the drugs in your system right now to understand me” and added “I have no interest in keeping someone in prison simply because he has a drug problem”. The Bravest’s brother ensured bond and upon the judge referring him to rehab, the firefighter exited the court and walked straight into a light pole.

It was a case of a judge tempering, or perhaps tampering justice with mercy.

The firefighter should be treated for his drug problem, but no matter how compelling his need to therapy, it should not exonerate him from any applicable criminal penalties. He got awfully close to being caught up in a similar human tragedy to that he was allegedly quite ready to promote in some poor stranger.

If he planned to take the fentanyl himself, then his getting caught was a blessing, for himself and for decent New Yorkers who wish him well.

Better disgrace in the present than dissolution forever.

And if he had peddled the contraband to the first little kid to show up with a few coins, he would have been doomed not only to a loss of freedom but of sanity through guilt. His depravity would have been irredeemable.

At that point no therapy avails anymore.

The taxpayers will pay the exorbitant costs of his rehab. Coverage is provided through the city’s health insurance plan, which nobody begrudges, especially for firefighters. It is not a “perk” but a right.  The legal process not being played out yet and with the legal presumption of innocence intact in even a case with details like this one, it’s not surprising that the burden of his self-infliction be a public expense. His benefit eligibility appears to be a separate matter from any potential legal culpability.

I’m sincerely glad that this firefighter’s ordeal may turn out all right for him, though I can’t control some incipient rage also. He had waved his Miranda Rights and reportedly was cooperative. It sounds like he’s relieved. As a firefighter, he probably has saved lives in the course of duty and has definitely been prepared to do so at any time.

But there are larger questions. When can an employee be fired for criminality?  For what nature of offense and at what point in the legal process?  Which benefits carry over after termination? What redress or appeal does the employee have and what are the avenues for pursuing it?

The Corporation Council foots the bill for defending police in litigation related to their official actions, but is it standard for them to play this role otherwise?  Under what circumstances and for which job titles?  When, if ever,does the public’s liability cease?

Whoever pays this firefighter’s legal and medical bills is not the big story. The great narrative is unfolding right now as we, a unified society, both stern and compassionate, attack the opioid scourge and drive it out of our midst.

Ron Isaac

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