Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2000
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2000, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Contact:  414-224-8280
Author: Kevin Murphy


Report On 13 Employees Alleges One Deal Took Place In Firehouse

Madison - Twelve Madison firefighters and one civilian employee of the
department have been linked to cocaine use and dealing stemming from a
federal investigation into suspected drug trafficking at a downtown bar,
city officials reported Thursday.

The names of 12 firefighters were deleted in copies of police reports
released Thursday. The documents detailed drug use in the department,
including the sale of cocaine at a Madison firehouse.

The reports were compiled this year by Madison police working in conjunction
with a grand jury investigation into suspected drug activity at Jocko's
Rocketship bar.

Off-duty firefighters had been know to frequent the bar, which police have
called an "indoor, open-air drug market."

The reports were released by the U.S. attorney's office Thursday to Fire
Chief Debra Amesqua and Mayor Susan Bauman.

Bauman said "it is certainly a sad day in the city of Madison," to have
firefighters implicated in illegal drug activity. She added that a
department investigation is under way to determine whether the firefighters
should be disciplined.

"Community safety is the most important part of all of this. . . . We won't
tolerate employees' use of illegal drugs while on duty threatening anyone's
life, their co-workers and the like," Bauman said at a news conference.

The reports detail rampant use of cocaine and alcohol among some

One firefighter said he bought cocaine as many as 30 times in 1998. Another
firefighter admitted buying 1.5 grams of cocaine for $100 from another
department member in a fire station dorm room, Housely said. Another
firefighter admitted possessing up to 8 ounces of cocaine. Firefighters
occasionally used Jocko's as a stop on a drinking binge known as a "Death
March." Some told police they knew cocaine could be purchased there. But
most who bought drugs said they did so elsewhere.

Last month, police gave the reports to District Attorney Diane Nicks, who
has declined to issue charges.

Police Lt. William Housely said Nicks, who was not invited to attend the
news conference, did not think the information alone was enough to bring
drug charges against the firefighters.

No arrests of firefighters have occurred because much of the information
they provided is not contemporary but involved alleged drug use that
occurred months or even years ago, said Housely.

If the firefighters are not charged, their names will not be released unless
the department files complaints against them with the Madison Police and
Fire Commission, Amesqua said.

Local and federal officials began an undercover investigation in August of
Jocko's Rocketship bar, located a block off State St.

A grand jury last month indicted nine people, including bar owner Robert
Schuh and several employees, on various drug charges.

The police reports were withheld from the fire chief and mayor because they
were the result of a grand jury investigation, which remains confidential
until released by the U.S. attorney.

Before receiving the police reports, Amesqua said administrators had begun
to review employee injury and sickness reports for indications of drug
abusers. However, that investigation found no significant suspicions of drug

Amesqua said those reports will now be checked against the police reports as
the department investigation continues.

The report does not indicate widespread drug use among firefighters, Bauman

"This involves 12 firefighters out of a commissioned force of over 300," she

Still, the suspension of 12 firefighters would have a significant effect on
the department's operations, Amesqua said. Last year 12 to 15 firefighters
were on extended sick leave, which caused increased overtime costs to cover
all shifts, she said.
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