Following a civil investigation by fire department executives, six Miami firefighters were reportedly fired after a noose was placed on a black co-worker's family photo at their fire station. They also reportedly drew penises on family photos that included the man's wife and one of his kids with their grandmother, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday, the day on which the firefighters in question were terminated.
Another five firefighters were investigated; they reportedly remain employed but "under scrutiny." In total, more than 20 people were interviewed under oath as a part of the investigation — 11 had been put on administrative leave leading up to the firings, and the personnel at the fire station in question was reassigned.
A released statement from Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the following:
We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is disrespectful, hurtful and compromises the integrity of the department and the City of Miami. ... It is the policy of the City of Miami to provide a workplace for all employees that is free from intimidation, threats or violent acts.
Bustle has reached out to both the Miami city manager's office and the Miami Department of Fire-Rescue for comment.
Meanwhile, Freddy Delgado, who heads Miami's chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters as president, struck a more cautious tone in a statement provided to Bustle:
We expect all of our members to be provided a safe, comfortable workplace and also to fair and complete investigations and just discipline when it's warranted. We have not yet been provided with all the information that the city relied upon in making the decisions it did today. We are very disturbed by the allegations and look forward to the opportunity to review all the facts.
The firefighters relieved of duty were Kevin Meizoso, David Rivera, Justin Rumbaugh, Harold Santana, Alejandro Sese, and William W. Bryson, son of former Miami Fire Chief William "Shorty" Bryson.
According to the Miami Herald report, the letters of termination delivered to the firefighters included information on who was accused of what. One came up with the idea and took the photos, another three drew on them, and a fifth firefighter returned the photos to their frames. Bryson "is accused of failing to stop the vandalism and of ignoring requests from subordinates to come forward and report the incident," the Herald reported. It was not clear who made the twine noose.
More information will be shared on Friday when the city holds a press conference, the Miami Herald reported. The firefighters can appeal the firing through city rules.
The Washington Post further delved into the backstory, focusing on Bryson's father, the former fire chief. In 1992, the elder Bryson, who was then in charge of the local union, kicked 62 black firemen out of the union after they complained about not receiving fair promotions compared with their white colleagues. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came down on the side of the black firefighters and ordered they be reinstated.
Another similar incident occurred in nearby Miami Beach, back in 2012, also a case of sexual harassment. Brian Gentles, a then-26-year-old black recruit, told the Miami New Times that other recruits would place their exposed testicles on his face, and that one of the superiors even reportedly handed him a Burger King application and said, "Go and be with your people."
"The City of Miami Beach and the Miami Beach Fire Department take allegations of misconduct or discrimination seriously and investigate such matters thoroughly," the city's then-fire chief Javier Otero told the paper in an email. "Once this investigation comes to a close, we will disclose the findings accordingly."
Now, years later, the department is facing a very similar scandal. Taking proactive measures may be warranted so that the city can "provide a workplace for all employees that is free from intimidation, threats or violent acts," as it promises in the city manager's statement.