Hawarden Emergency Medical Technician with a Criminal Past

(HAWARDEN, IA) Do you believe in second chances? How about one for an Emergency Medical Technician with nearly two dozen criminal convictions?

Iowa doesn't require background checks on EMT's making it easy for people with criminal backgrounds to get a job in that field.

According the Des Moines Register it's been 9 years since Patrick Birgess committed a crime but the Mayor of Hawarden say he believes in second chances.

It's a small town Hawarden, Iowa, and getting people to work as firefighters and emergency medical technicians can be a difficult task. But even so Ric Porter, the Mayor of Hawarden says the people in charge of hiring officials take everything into consideration including a candidate's past, before giving them a job

"They see where they are today and if they're up to the level of what the qualifications need to be I think then they're okay," said Mayor Ric Porter.

City workers like Patrick Birgess who, according to the Des Moines Register, has at least 23 convictions including grand theft, credit card fraud and Identity theft for starters.

Birgess moved to Hawarden from California about three years ago. He started out as a firefighter and about 6 months ago he became an EMT.

As an EMT, Birgess has access to the social security numbers and medical records of patients that he picks up.

The state emergency medical services bureau gave Birgess his EMT license this April subject to a two year probationary period because of his criminal background and quote "habitual intoxication or addiction to drugs."

"My concern would be if an EMT can perform medically what they need to do for my process then I would be comfortable with that. Everyday we deal with people that you don't know there backgrounds but you know what their occupation and their jobs are and if they can perform those to what they need to do, that's my bottom line," said Mayor Porter.

"If he's proven that he's changed and is willing to help us out that we're going to give him a chance," said Mike Finch, the Interim Director for Hawarden Ambulance.

Birgess won Firefighter of the year in 2012. Mayor Porter says Birgess was very emotional and appreciative of the award.

The Iowa Department of Public Health told the Des Moines Register that it believes "Birgess can practice with minimal risk to the public."