Grand Jury Investigates Paramedic Test Cheating

CLEVELAND — Twenty-seven Cleveland firefighter/paramedics were called to testify before a Cuyahoga County grand jury Monday about cheating on a life-saving skills exam.

City officials believe a firefighter smuggled a copy of the Paramedic Functioning Test from the Fire Training Academy in October 2007. The grand jury proceedings are meant to identify who took it.

Cleveland police began investigating possible cheating on the exam in July after Emergency Medical Services officials received a computer disc that included a copy of the test. The disc indicated when and where the test was copied and could help police confirm who made the copy.

The city-administered test, which paramedics and other EMS workers are required to pass every three years, emphasizes the most current medical protocols and procedures and goes above what is required for a state certification.

Firefighters who fail the test can’t do paramedic duties but don’t lose their jobs.

Chester Ashton, head of the fire union, said it’s a waste of money to pay overtime for 27 firefighters to stand in a hallway waiting to be called. He believes the proceedings are motivated by politics at City Hall.

“This is a witch hunt,” Ashton said. “I don’t see any need for this.”

The firefighters milled around and talked about taking the Fifth Amendment if called to testify. Ashton said the firefighters appeared before the grand jury but exercised their Fifth Amendment right not to answer some questions on the advice of union lawyers. More firefighters could be called to testify next week.

County Prosecutor Bill Mason and city Safety Director Martin Flask declined to comment on the investigation. Grand jury hearings are secret.

Cleveland officials created the test with help from the city’s Physicians Advisory Board and the Public Safety Department’s medical director.

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