A firefighter accused of using a Baton Rouge firehouse to produce part of a raunchy film is trying to extinguish a controversy that has torched his 10-year career.
Dewey Allen was fired this summer after officials found he violated department policy by shooting a scene of “Mississippi Shakedown” inside a fire station on Old Hammond Highway. The firefighter’s attorney said the film was not pornographic but acknowledged “church-going America” might find it objectionable.
Allen, 40, of Zachary, is fighting back, claiming his termination amounted to a violation of his First Amendment rights.
He has appealed to the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, a five-member panel that could vote to reinstate him after a hearing next month.
The veteran firefighter has not disputed the content of the film could be seen as risqué, but his appeal says the movie had nothing to do with his job performance.
“The department is attempting to censor the off-duty activities of its firemen and impose its perceived moral standards on its fireman,” the appeal states.
Fire Department officials declined comment, citing the pending appeal, and Allen did not return calls Wednesday evening seeking comment.
Allen’s attorney, Floyd J. Falcon, said he has not seen proof that any portion of “Mississippi Shakedown” was filmed at the firehouse.
While fire officials found the film objectionable, Falcon said, his client “has a right to do anything that’s not pornographic.”
“The hierarchy at the Fire Department believed it was not what they expected firemen to participate in,” he said.
The film is difficult to characterize but might fit into the genre of crime drama, Falcon said, one with scantily-clad women, drugs and harsh language.
“We’re dealing with late-night activities in the Afro-American community,” Falcon said. “It’s certainly not what you would expect in church-going America.”
The film was apparently produced some time in 2011 but did not come to the chief’s attention until April 15 of this year.
Fire Department records show Allen had been suspended for 30 days on April 5 after failing a random drug and alcohol screen.
“We as public servants are entrusted by the public to perform to the best of our abilities and not be inhibited by the use of alcohol or illegal drugs while on duty,” Baton Rouge Fire Chief Ed Smith wrote in a disciplinary letter.
In a termination letter issued July 31, Smith said Allen had initially acknowledged filming portions of the movie inside the fire station and using department equipment in its production.
Allen claimed to have received permission from an unnamed “superior officer,” according to the letter.
Allen’s attorney would not allow him to answer any further questions during a follow-up interrogation, the letter said.
The letter includes a screenshot of a man lying in bed in a scene that fire officials allege was filmed in a bunk at Fire Station 17, 14450 Old Hammond Highway.
Smith said in the letter he concluded the film was shot at the fire station based on “identical walls, lighting and placement of the lighting” seen in the screenshot.
Allen is accused of violating a departmental policy that requires firefighters to notify their superior officer “of all matters coming to his attention affecting the interest and welfare of the department.”
He is also accused of damaging department property, although the termination letter did not offer any specifics.
Smith also said Allen had shown discourteous conduct and an “unwillingness or failure to perform the duties of his position in a satisfactory manner.”
Falcon called Allen’s firing a shame, adding he’s a well-respected fireman with “great ratings.”
Allen’s appeal hearing is set for Nov. 21.