ODESSA, Texas — On Tuesday night, an investigation into hazing of cadets at Odessa Fire Rescue that dates back to August 2022 was presented to city council.
Several cadets suffered blisters and burns on their hands, injuries on the job that prompted an investigation by Tommy Sheen of the Sheen Law Firm.
The investigation revealed hazing did occur at OFR, but it revealed other issues as well.
Interim Fire Chief Jason Cotton said there has been a lot of change in their department recently, and they are viewing that change as a clean slate.
“So we are actually in the process of restructuring our training division and our cadet program, setting expectations and making sure those expectations are known from top to bottom," said Cotton.
The investigation into hazing at OFR not only revealed that it happened, but also that the cadet program did not have a standardized curriculum or schedule.
As OFR looks to move forward from this incident, that reality is being addressed.
“We’re going to restructure the way our cadet program operates, how we work it, how we educate and teach those new employees of ours," said Cotton. "There will be more of a schedule, more of a calendar — everyday schedule and calendar — of what we do and what the expectations are.”
The investigation also revealed that the cadets did not know how or where to report an injury or grievance, in addition to OFR doing its own investigation without assistance from Odessa Human Resources.
Lack of communication is a problem that may expand beyond just OFR.
“One of the biggest things that we lack here within the city is communication, and so once again, we’re seeing [it] rear it’s ugly head, the communication, lack of communication," said Odessa Mayor Javier Joven. "And two, self supervision, and not properly following those protocols. But, once again, did those protocols exist or is there a system in place to make sure that it doesn’t exist? We don’t know. I have a lot of questions.”
Joven went on to say that the system failed these employees, indicating more work will need to be done in the aftermath of these findings.
“This is a systematic breakdown throughout the system," said Joven. "We need to find out why, because we can’t fix what we don’t know. We don’t know what we don’t know. This is a half-report, there’s more, so I’m interested where that systematic break is, because it has to be addressed.”
Cotton also mentioned that they are in the process of rebuilding their policies and procedures, and that they are working on improving communication across the department.
In the event that new information on the situation is released, NewsWest 9 will continue to provide any updates.