- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A D.C. deputy mayor yesterday said the fire department will discipline a top official who left the scene of an accident before police could investigate it earlier this month.

However, no charges have been filed against Deputy Fire Chief Beatrice Rudder, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General said.

“I think clearly there was potentially a minor traffic violation,” said Ed Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety and justice.

Mr. Reiskin said he has reviewed police and fire department reports on the March 15 incident and will let the fire department make any disciplinary decisions. Discipline could be meted out as a reprimand, suspension, reduction in rank or termination after an administrative hearing.

“To me, the real question, which I don’t know will be resolved, was: How immediate was her contact with the police department?” Mr. Reiskin said yesterday.

“It seems to me the more prudent course would have been a more immediate contact with police.”

A police spokesman has said that leaving the scene of a minor traffic accident is an “arrestable” misdemeanor offense.

Chief Rudder, 51, was placed on paid administrative leave on March 23 after The Washington Times reported that she had hit a child in a crosswalk and left the scene before police investigated the accident. She has not returned several calls seeking comment.

Chief Rudder, who earns $112,769 a year, returned to work yesterday. She was reassigned from the firefighting division to an administrative position in the Office of Professional Standards, officials said.

She joined the department in 1978 and was the first woman to complete firefighter training in the District. Chief Rudder was one of three finalists for the fire chief’s job in 2002, after Chief Ronnie Few resigned.

Fire department spokeswoman Kathryn Friedman yesterday would not say what internal charges had been filed against Chief Rudder. She said an administrative hearing is a “very formal process,” similar to a trial.

Three fire officials, in this case an assistant chief and two deputy chiefs, conduct the hearing. The accused has legal representation, and the department is represented by a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General.

Hearings usually last a day, and the trial board meets later to reach a verdict. The verdict is then sent to the fire chief, along with a recommended punishment.

“Chief [Adrian H.] Thompson must accept the verdict,” Miss Friedman said. “He has the option to accept the penalty, lessen the penalty or dismiss the penalty, but he must accept the verdict.”

Chief Rudder was driving a Ford Excursion when she struck an 11-year-old boy in the 900 block of G Street NE at about 3:35 p.m. on March 15. She left before police investigated the accident, according to a police report and fire officials.

The boy, who suffered minor injuries, was transported to Children’s Hospital, where he was admitted overnight for observation.

Fire officials said that several hours after the accident, Chief Rudder went to a police station to see whether a report had been filed. When she learned there was no police report, she filed one at the 5th Police District headquarters.

The accident occurred in the 1st Police District.

Mr. Reiskin said he ordered that the accident report be forwarded to the correct police district and that officers call the boy’s family to make sure they are given the proper paperwork.

“The last thing this family needs is not to be able to get their insurance because of our mistake,” he said.

The boy’s family could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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