FDNY EMT Still Working After Arrest For Impersonating Police, Robbery
New York, NY – A New York City emergency medical technician (EMT), who has been arrested for impersonating a law enforcement officer three times and was found guilty of blowing off emergency medical calls and falsifying records, remains on active duty with the city’s Emergency Medical Services.
These and other allegations against EMT Robert Gala, 25, were substantiated in 2017 following a Department of Investigation probe, the New York Daily News reported.
Gala is the son of Fire Department New York (FDNY) Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala.
The deputy assistant chief may well become the department’s next assistant chief during an upcoming ceremony on Sep. 13, the New York Daily News reported.
The elder Gala had little to say regarding the findings of the probe or his son’s future with the agency.
"I've served the FDNY for 37 years and I've had an impeccable career," Chief Gala told the news outlet. "My son is an adult and he'll have to answer for it."
New York City Councilman Andy King blasted the city for continuing to keep Gala on the payroll in the wake of the probe’s discoveries.
“It’s deplorable. He’s gotten the favor of his father’s position,” King told the New York Daily News. “If you are falsifying documents and you are found guilty, there is no other conversation than termination…If I were to walk about impersonating a cop, I would be locked up.”
Gala was first arrested for impersonating a police officer in 2013, but the circumstances of the incident are sealed, the New York Daily News reported.
“It was his thing,” one of Gala’s former friends said about his history of pretending to be an officer. “He has an unmarked cop car. He used to pull people over all the time. He has a badge and a gun on the side. He’s just a freaking idiot.”
The Department of Investigation began looking into Gala in November of 2016, after they received a complaint that Gala had forged an electronic medical record by signing his partner’s name, the New York Daily News reported.
Investigators learned that Gala and his partner had received an emergency call as they were traveling in an ambulance on their way to lunch, and that he flagged himself out for a made-up call, pretending he was helping an injured man, so he wouldn’t have to respond.
According to investigators, Gala said he “wanted to eat his Chinese food in peace,” the New York Daily News reported.
After his meal, Gala unlocked the EMS patient medical history tablet using his partner’s password, then submitted the form with his partner’s forged signature.
Similarly, in January of 2017, Gala was dispatched to an urgent medical call by a dispatcher, but opted to ignore it and went on a call of his choosing instead.
When he was confronted by a supervisor, Gala claimed he was taking a faster route to the scene he was dispatched to, when the automated dispatch system suddenly reassigned him to the other call for service.
Investigators reviewed the ambulance GPS logs, and discovered that Gala had ignored the priority call and lied about his location.
On July 21, 2017, Gala was arrested in Staten Island on multiple counts of unlawful possession of imitation pistols, handcuffs, and firearms, and unlawful use of a police uniform, after officers found him in possession of illegal flashing blue lights.
He also had pellet guns, police badges, and plastic restraints with him at the time of his arrest, investigators said.
Three days later, in Brooklyn, surveillance footage showed Gala as he rushed across the street towards a pedestrian.
Police said he then flashed a fake gold badge, restrained the man with zip ties, and rifled through his pockets.
He left the man tied up on the street.
Although he was arrested in connection with the Brooklyn robbery several months later, there are no public records pertaining to the Brooklyn or Staten Island incidents, the New York Daily News reported.
During the department’s probe, Gala repeatedly ignored scheduled appointments to meet with investigators, and even blew off his own attorney when he tried to locate Gala.
But when the investigators told the FDNY about Gala’s lack of cooperation, they were told he had “just registered himself into a drug rehabilitation center and was expected to return in a month,” the New York Daily News reported.
FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the New York Daily News that Gala is restricted from patient care, but that he is still employed as an active-duty EMT.
“He is pending further disciplinary action, up to termination," Dwyer said. His status with the agency has been pending for over a year – since his last arrest in 2017, he added.
Gala also applied to become a firefighter in late 2016, but was ultimately disqualified, Dwyer said.
“It’s not like this is a one-time incident,” King told the New York Daily News. “When do we let favors stop being more important than the safety of New Yorkers?”
“The mayor has a responsibility to act, the commissioner has a responsibility to act, and if they can’t, they are part of the problem,” King said.