New policy changes in Hillsborough County are cracking down on criminal gang members working in government positions.
The policy changes stem from investigations by our I-Team.
The I-Team revealed firefighters and paramedics who are also members of criminal motorcycle gangs.
The new policy applies to all existing and future Hillsborough employees under County Administrator Mike Merrill's watch. That includes Hillsborough fire rescue. Administrator Merrill tells us with recent events we uncovered he couldn't wait any longer.
Here are the official memos (click to view):
- Memo to all Hillsborough County Administrator Employees
- Memo to all Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Employees
Effective today, all employees under Hillsborough's County Administrator are prohibited from being members of criminal gangs identified by state and federal law enforcement.
"The people we serve here in the county need to know that I'm not going to tolerate that kind of thing regardless of whether it's fire rescue or any other employee," says Merrill.
Administrator Merrill says the directive comes after what the I-Team exposed back in may. Hillsborough and Pasco County firefighters and paramedics belonging to motorcycle clubs law enforcement define as criminal gangs and criminal enterprises.
"Based on that I wanted to take as much action as I could as quickly as I could", Merrill adds.
Administrator Merrill didn't realize there was a lack of force behind the county's HR policies.
"Certainly the work that you've done has been helpful and I appreciate that." he says.
He says the State Fire Marshal's Office is also making efforts to create new anti gang policies for fire departments statewide, but after recent developments from the I-Team he couldn't wait for the next legislative session.
Hillsborough firefighter Clint Walker is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome for an internal investigation.
Witnesses and police say walker was wearing outlaws gang colors and is one of several throwing punches.
Merrill says existing employees need to make a choice either their gang or the county but you can't have both.
Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team.
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