Officials: Conn. FF suspended for 'blatantly sexist, homophobic and racist' social media posts
New Fairfield fire officials said the firefighter will be required to attend classes that "cover the issues involved"
Tara O'Neill, Kendra Baker
The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
NEW FAIRFIELD, Conn. — A local volunteer firefighter has been suspended for violating department policy after allegedly posting "offensive" social media posts and will be required to attend classes to address the issues, fire officials said in a statement.
In a joint statement late Wednesday, the Ball Pond Volunteer Fire Company and the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department said the fire company's Executive Committee and Board of Trustees completed the investigation of a complaint filed by First Selectman Patricia Del Monaco and a group called Concerned Citizens of New Fairfield.
The statement said the complaints were in response to public social media posts they say were made by a volunteer last spring that were "deeply offensive to members of the community we serve," the statement said. Del Monaco and Selectman Khris Hall described the videos in two social media posts as "blatantly sexist, homophobic and racist."
The fire department announced last weekend that an investigation into one of the members had been launched. Officials have since declined to identify the firefighter in question and The News-Times has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for further details on the incident.
"Although none of the posts were made on firehouse property, nor using any firehouse equipment or involving any other firehouse members or during firehouse activities, we too found the posts to be offensive, to be in violation of department policy, and in violation of the standards we expect all members to follow," officials said.
In the statement, the fire department apologized for the incident.
"We are deeply sorry that this occurred and want the public to know that we are doing all we can to make sure it does not happen again," the statement said.
Officials said the person allegedly involved has been suspended and will be required to a "series of six classes designed for public servants that cover the issues involved." The firefighter has not been identified.
The Board of Directors also plans to have all department members receive training on the same issues.
Selectman Kim Hanson said fire officials' decision to suspend and require the firefighter to take classes appears to be driven by a desire to effectuate "an improvement in behavior" rather than punish, and he hopes the firefighter will "learn from the experience and perhaps, in examining their previous actions, have an honest change of heart."
As to whether fire officials' actions are "strong enough to reduce the chances of others making similar offenses," Hanson said he believes requiring all department members to receive training "should reduce those chances."
"Ultimately the desired goal, it seems to me, is not simply the reduction in harmful actions ... but also an awakening within all of us that we are responsible for the harm that we cause others and for the potential to change and improve ourselves and thus improve our society — to truly love our neighbors," Hanson said. "That is much more difficult."
The fire department's Wednesday evening statement said the 140 members of the fire department have spent "countless hours serving our community in ways large and small."
"We are heartsick that the thoughtless actions of one member may have damaged our relationship with the community, and we want you all to know that anyone who needs our services has always and will always receive them as quickly as we can respond without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, etc.," the statement said.
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