Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Racism claims against Fire Fighters could polarize department

Akron' new fire chief, Larry Bunner, has quite the fire to put out .. and he can't fight this one with a hose or an extinguisher.

My sources tell me that a minority fire fighter at a South Akron station house walked in on a group of 5-6 white fire fighters who were engaged in conversations using the "N" word. A discussion and/or disagreement followed. The incident happened last week, and now every fire fighter who was there that day is being interviewed to see what they saw, heard, or said.

I called Bunner this afternoon to ask about the rumors I heard. Bunner confirmed the investigation and told me flat out that racism "will not be tolerated in this department." He said that if the allegations are found to have happened, discipline will follow. If it's unfounded, it'll be dismissed. Bunner couldn't comment further until more of the investigation is complete .. and said that should happen by the end of next week.

The tone in Bunner's voice tells me this at the top of his radar right now. While it hasn't made the news until now (we're mentioning it tonight on the AkronCanton News), I'm finding that every fire fighter in town is aware of "the incident." Over the years, several minority fire fighters have shared with me about their frustration with perceived racism in the department.

How Bunner handles this situation will go a long way towards the entire department's perception of him as a chief. I'd expect reporters to ask Mayor Plusquellic about it at tomorrow's press conference.

1 comment:

AvidRdr said...

On Point with Akron Fire Dept? Water, Water, Everywhere! :
Issue in Akron Fire Dept is far deeper and in terms of solution goes higher than the "Word" spoken and overheard @ a Fire Staion! Every city employee is under the Executive order of the Mayor regarding an anti-harrassment/non-hostile workplace environment.
The Issue is whether or not this policy, which is rooted in State and Federal law, is just words or has any teeth.
Focusing on this particular "N" word incident, trivializes the years of abuse geared toward Catholics, Women, Jews, as well as African-Americans.
It is up to the Mayor's order.
Mr. Mayor, we are still waiting!