BATH — City officials are investigating a firefighter who was arrested on suspicion of operating under the influence while working as a paramedic.
James W. Perry, 54, was among the emergency responders who rushed to the scene of a possible drowning off Washington Street in Bath the night of Sept. 6.
Perry has been employed by the city of Bath as a firefighter since 2006, but was responding to the incident as a paramedic for Mid Coast Hospital, driving a hospital “fly car,” an SUV used to respond to emergencies. He has been placed on administrative leave by both employers.
“Right now, all I can tell you is the employee is on administrative leave,” Bath Fire Chief Lawrence Renaud said. “We’re still in the middle of an investigation.”
Renaud said he could not comment on the circumstances surrounding Perry’s arrest because it is a personnel matter.
According to Deputy Chief Robert Savary, police immediately noticed signs of impairment after pulling up to the scene and interacting with Perry.
Savary said the search for the suspected lost swimmer lasted about 40 minutes. During that time, officers conducted their investigation of Perry.
The drowning call initially came from family members concerned about a man who had gone for a swim in the nearby river.
“It was a miscommunication between him and his family,” Savary said.
While police interviewed Perry, other emergency personnel looked for the swimmer. The man was found later that day and was never in any danger.
Perry was arrested on suspicion of operating under the influence. Savary said he was unaware of any prior criminal history with Perry.
According to police, any incident involving a first responder suspected of being under the influence is investigated like any traffic stop.
“There isn’t anything different that happens,” Police Chief Michael Field said. “If there’s suspicion, we treat it the same as any other person.”
Bath will be conducting its own investigation regarding Perry’s future with the Fire Department.
“He’s been placed on indefinite administrative leave,” City Manager Peter Owen said.
“There’s certain entities out of our control in the investigation. We’re in contact with Mid Coast and waiting to see what they’re going to provide for information.”
Owen said there are many pieces to the investigation that may take a considerable amount of time, but he was unable to comment on specifics.
Owen hopes for it to be done as soon as possible, noting Perry’s impending court appearance is one of the factors in the city’s investigation.
“It’s a very serious situation,” Owen said. “But, we have to follow all of the protocols. This person has rights that we have to respect.”
Perry was released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 6.