Conn. firefighter suspended over racist Facebook post

The firefighter, a lieutenant with 20 years on the job, used the N-word on the page of an anti-immigrant group

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A firefighter has been suspended for 15 days after allegedly posting a Facebook comment using the N-word.

New Haven Independent reported that the firefighter, a lieutenant with 20 years on the job, is suspended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30. 

Fire Chief Allyn Wright said the lieutenant violated department rules, which forbid the use of "obscene, immoral or disrespectful language."

The Facebook comment was posted on the page of an anti-immigrant group called "English and Proud." The photo shows Muslims being chased with machetes. A screenshot, with the firefighter's comment, began circulating among members of the department. In the comment, it said, "In the U.S., we call them n—."

Mayor Toni Harp called the post "unacceptable behavior" that "has to be addressed," according to the report. "It is an action that is unbefitting an officer in our public safety service," she said.

Chief Wright said he's "definitely not going to tolerate it." In a meeting with Chief Wright, the firefighter neither admitted nor denied the allegation.

"He apologized and regretted that it was on his website," union president Jimmy Kottage said. "He needs time to look at his options."

The city is in the process of drafting a policy on employees’ social media use.

William Augustine, head of the New Haven Firebirds, the organization of black firefighters, called for the commenter’s firing "if it’s proved true."

"The public won't want that man coming in their house knowing he said that," Augustine said. "I don't care if he was drunk; there’s no reason to put something like that up there. Especially dealing with the public as a firefighter in New Haven, where a great proportion is minorities. If he did it, he needs to be punished. Even on the job now that's going to cause a hostile work environment."

Veteran Firebird Gary Tinney said the incident proves that the fire department needs diversity training.

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