Probationary firefighter fired after bringing watermelon to mostly black station

Officials said Robert Pattison brought the watermelon topped with a bow when he came to introduce himself to his new colleagues

By FireRescue1 Staff

DETROIT — A probationary firefighter was fired after bringing a giant watermelon topped with a bow along with him to his first day at a predominantly black fire station.

NY Daily News reported that Robert Pattison, 41, was apparently aware that 90 percent of his new colleagues were black, but said the gift was not a joke and he did not mean to offend anyone.

"When you get your first detail at a firehouse, you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into," firefighter Patrick Trout said. "So you would have to say it was probably a bad call."

Some firefighters were offended by the act due to the stereotype associated with African-Americans and watermelon, and Pattison was terminated.

"There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department," said Fire Commissioner Eric Jones in a statement. "On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department."

Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty said he does not agree with the decision to fire Pattison.

"Between what he did and losing his job, there were a few things that could have been done,” Chief McCarty said.


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