UPDATE: Eric Shane Howell has appealed his termination with the City of Memphis Civil Service Commission.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The head of training at the Memphis Fire Department is off the job after being accused of inappropriate behavior toward new recruits.
Eric Shane Howell, a Memphis Fire division chief, is said to have violated five personnel policies, including harassment.
Recruits who reached out to WREG Investigators were too scared to give interviews but provided unnerving details that lined up with what we found in his employment file.
A letter addressed to Howell described what happened on Dec. 8, when he reportedly instructed a male recruit to put duct tape over a female recruit’s mouth, telling another instructor, “this is how we teach them to shut up.”
Howell, at the time, was the chief of training.
The letter goes on to state he also “used vulgar and inappropriate language when addressing Recruit Class 119” at least two times. This after he was previously disciplined for similar conduct just months before.
Howell, in an administrative hearing on Dec. 20, reportedly told the administration he had to “get on to the class” and laughed when presented a picture of the duct tape incident, calling it a “joke” but admitting he could “see why it can be taken the wrong way.”
Howell was also accused of making recruits carry two, five-gallon containers of chemicals weighing 54 pounds apiece for extended distances. The report claims he used vulgar, sexual statements when addressing recruits.
Howell had received written reprimands for using “profanity and bad language” in 2018, and again in September 2022.
Howell asked that they take his 25 years of his past performance into consideration, including the honors and mentions he’d received, also documented in his file.
Ultimately, the administration called his behavior “concerning” and terminated him.
Howell can file an appeal with the Civil Service Commission. We are working to find out if he has done so.
We reached out to the fire department for comment, and to Howell for his side. We will update this story if we hear back.
According to city salary records, Howell made $102,921.26 in his job as of last June.