MORE ALARM BELLS FOR FIRE DEPARTMENT: Shortly before these minority firefighters took part in a rally outside Brooklyn Borough Hall last month to call attention to discrimination in city jobs, the FDNY found itself dealing with a doctored photo circulated by a Firefighter in which a naked black man was superimposed onto the photo of George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis cop who pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes.The Firefighter has returned from suspension while an investigation that could cost him his job continues.

A city Firefighter who was suspended earlier this month for posting a photo-shopped picture of a naked black man sitting on George Floyd's neck with his genitalia on Mr. Floyd's face is back on the payroll, according to an FDNY spokesman.

The ugly parody of the video of a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with murder after pressing his knee into Mr. Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes, popped up in a chat room for Engine Co. 303 in Jamaica, Queens, according to the Daily News, which first reported the Firefighter's suspension.

It was captioned "Too soon?"

Internal Probe Continues

The FDNY's Bureau and Investigations and Trials is conducting the internal probe after it received a complaint June 5.

"The Firefighter [who] was suspended for 20 days without pay returned from suspension last week," according to an email responding to a July 2  inquiry by this newspaper. "The Firefighter is restricted from performing field duty and driving department vehicles until the investigation is completed. The Firefighter will have representation throughout the process."

Khalid Baylor, president of the Vulcan Society, the black firefighter fraternal organization, said the incident was one of several that "bubbled up" in the midst of the national debate over police accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd's death.

The three Minneapolis officers who were at the scene with Officer Chauvin were also fired and face lesser criminal charges for their roles.

"There have been a number of these kinds of incidents that have been reported to the department that are being investigated, and the Vulcan Society is awaiting the outcome of those investigations," Mr. Baylor said in a phone interview.

Rallied Against Racism

The Vulcans took part in a June 7 rally featuring Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams protesting what organizers charged was systemic bias in city agencies including the Fire Department. Firefighter Regina Wilson, a former Vulcans' president who remains on the group's executive board, told the crowd that Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro had given permission for firefighters to wear their helmets at the protest, the News reported.  

Gary Tinney, northeast regional director for the International Association of Professional Black Firefighters, announced that his group had given $1,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement in memory of Mr. Floyd.

"Over the past 50 years, black men and women firefighters and paramedics have endured and fought against institutionalized government systems that perpetrate racism, discrimination, harassment, hostile work environments, or retaliation in fire departments throughout this country," he said. "Our work continues."

He invoked the memory of Louisville Emergency Medical Technician Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in March as they executed a no-knock warrant seeking a drug-dealer who was not at that address.

The News quoted Mr. Baylor saying, "Breonna was one of us. Every day she made a conscious decision to put her life on the line for other people."

IAFF Speaks Up

The International Association of Fire Fighters posted a letter in support of "those who are peacefully protesting for the fair and equal treatment of black lives—and all minorities throughout the United States and Canada."

The correspondence from its Human Relations Committee condemned "police brutality and violence." It also decried "the senseless violence against members of law enforcement, fire fighters, and first responders" and "the blatant destruction of property and looting occurring throughout...our great nations, as it only serves to distract from the real issues of inequalities faced by many of our members, their families and those we proudly serve."

The statement continued, "It wasn't long ago that the fire service was on the wrong side of history in the sixties. The IAFF has been dedicated to progressing fair and equal treatment within fire and emergency services since 1988 when the members, by convention resolution, created the Civil Rights Committee."

The IAFF panel closed the letter "strongly" recommending "that all affiliates of our great union take similar action in condemning all bigotry, intolerance and racism everywhere."

'An Important Step'

Mr. Baylor said the IAFF statement was "a very important step" in resolving unaddressed issues of systemic racism within the firefighting service.

"I just wish it had been echoed by the UFA," he said, referring to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents the Firefighter under investigation.

He said that before the IAFF issued its statement, the Vulcan Society asked outgoing UFA President Gerard Fitzgerald to issue his own post-Floyd statement, but he declined.

Mr. Fitzgerald disputed that claim but declined further comment.

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