Can you be a fire employee and the leader and or member of a motorcycle gang?

There is a recent story out of Florida that’s has generated a lot of discussion. According to WFTS-TV’s I-Team, two fire captains, from two different departments, are chapter presidents of two different motorcycle gangs. One is with the Pagans and the other with the Outlaws. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) defines “outlaw motorcycle gangs” (OMG) as “organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises”. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have designated four MCs as “outlaw motorcycle gangs”: the Hells Angels, the Pagans, the Outlaws, and the Bandidos, known as the “Big Four”.

While neither captain has been charged with a crime, one question I have (among many) is whether or not they should be working for a public department. The fact is, public employees have been terminated (or not hired) because of questionable comments on their face book page. So why would you allow someone to work for you who belongs to what the government lists as an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG)?  

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According to law enforcement, there are two distinct groups within OMG’s. There is the 99 percent, who believe in following and respecting the law. Then there are the one percenters.  These 1% proudly display a patch that signifies an anti-law abiding lifestyle. Local ATF Agent Keary Hundt says when you’re a 1 percenter, “You consider yourself not subject to society’s rules and laws.” These 1 percenters are involved in “Drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, extortion, arson, bombings, you name it.” One of the fire captains named in the story proudly displays the 1% logo on his shirt and on a necklace.

Having summarized the news story which you can read at; , let’s start at the beginning.

If I were any part of a government administration, I would not want an employee to belong to any group known for its criminal activity, especially ones that are named by the DOJ. A first step would be to have hiring policies that ask the question on whether or not the applicant belongs to any association or subversive group. That’s a broad question but I think it best not to get too specific. Then if a person checks the “No” box and later is found to belong to one of these groups all along, then you have cause to terminate. The city policies could also prohibit membership in these types of organizations. So if someone is “clean” when you hire them they know upfront they can’t later join one these clubs. Or, once again, there is cause to terminate.

Apparently in the organizations named in the article, these types of policies are not in place or there would not be a news story about it.

If your organization does not have a government or department policy prohibiting this type of activity, it is probably because it has not been needed. I have heard the statement many times that “firefighters are their own worst enemy”. This seems to be the case here.

As a fire chief, should you be concerned about your employees belonging to one of these groups? Absolutely. As a chief, if my department or city did not have a policy against membership in these organizations, I would work to get them implemented. I know there will be many who ask why it is any ones business what an employee does on his/her own time. The answer I think is simple. You work for an organization who works every day to secure and retain the public trust. The public trusts us to come to their aid, to be polite, to know the job, and to respect their property. Having an employee belonging to one of these organizations, not to mention being the chapter president, just doesn’t pass the newspaper test. No matter how you write it, it will not make the department look good.

I have nothing against motorcycles or motorcycle clubs. There are certainly many clubs that are recognized by the American Motorcycle Association that a person could choose to be a member of. These clubs can be a fun organization and do a lot of community work. In my opinion if you belong to an OMG, then it just a bad thing waiting to happen. And that can’t be good for your organization. Personally, if you are a member of a 1 percenter club, why would you want to work for a public entity in the first place?

Just my opinion. What do you think?
Stay Safe, Everyone Goes Home!

William Jolley has 37 years of experience in the fire service with 20 of those years in a management position. William was the Fire Chief of Haines City, Florida, a city of Approximately 20,000. Prior to that William was the Assistant Chief of Saint Petersburg, Florida, where he worked for 35 years.

Posted in Chief William Jolley, Fire Service, Leadership, Opinion.