The city Firefighter who was suspended last month for posting a Photoshopped picture of a naked black man sitting on George Floyd's neck was Daniel Ambrosio.
After being suspended for 20 days for posting the video in a chatroom for Engine Co. 303 in Jamaica, the 42-year-old Firefighter was put back on the payroll but "restricted from performing field duty and driving department vehicles until the investigation is completed," according to a department spokesperson, who also confirmed Mr. Ambrosio's identity.
Quickly Brought Complaint
The 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 May 25, surfaced in the chatroom a few days after the death with the caption "Too soon?" A firefighter complained to FDNY officials, who quickly imposed the suspension, which was first reported by the Daily News.
An anonymous caller to this newspaper July 13 identified Mr. Ambrosio and said that Firefighters were involved in a "secret" fund-raising effort on his behalf to make up for his lost wages. No such campaign could be confirmed, but one would not break any departmental regulations, according to FDNY sources. Such collections are not uncommon in cases where Firefighters being colleagues were punished too harshly.
Mr. Ambrosio is a lifelong resident of Lynbrook, L.I., where he serves as an assistant chief in its Volunteer Fire Department's Vulcan Chemical and Hose Company. A message left on the answering machine there was not returned.
In June 2019, he was named Lynbrook's Man of the Year for years of volunteer work for that department and coaching local sports
The Village's Mayor, Alan Beach, told a local newspaper that Mr. Ambrosio was an "outstanding" citizen who was "caring, kind and helpful."
In May 2012, he and two other city firefighters were featured in a Daily News story for their efforts to raise $225,000 for the New York City chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation.
A year later, the FDNY promulgated a policy that was based on rules established three years earlier by the Bloomberg administration governing city employees' use of social media both on the job and off. Under it, employees were prohibited from engaging in activity that would "bring the City or the FDNY into disrepute, including engaging in harassing or discriminatory conduct. Engaging in such behavior on-line, even in a personal capacity, may subject an employee to disciplinary action," including termination.
Khalid Baylor, president of the Vulcan Society of black firefighters, he had seen the image posted by Mr. Ambrosio.
"It was nasty, vile and racist and can't be dumbed down to be just a joke," Mr. Baylor said. "To make a distorted picture of somebody whose life was lost is very disgusting."
He described the FDNY social-media policy "as a beefy document" that should make it possible for "firefighters and the Department to be on the same page."
'Need Higher Standard'
"This is a paramilitary organization, and what you do on your own time can come into play as a representative of the Fire Department," he said. "As a public employee, you have to be held to a higher standard when you work for the city and you represent the department."
According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, all members facing departmental charges are entitled to legal counsel supplied by the union.
Arthur Schwartz, a veteran labor attorney, said that in balancing the First Amendment rights of public employees and the ability of their employers to regulate their speech, the courts side with the employer.
"If you had a white police officer put out a tweet that blacks can't be cops because they are more loyal to their race than to the public, that person could be terminated," he said, because the city could claim the posting "promoted distrust and disharmony" within the department.
In 2014, the de Blasio administration settled an employment-discrimination case brought by the Vulcan Society in 2002 and later supported by the U.S. Justice Department during President George W. Bush's second term. In addition to paying $98 million while giving hiring preference for Firefighter jobs to the plaintiffs in the case, the city consented oversight of FDNY reform efforts by a court monitor under the supervision of U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who had ruled against the department at trial while Michael Bloomberg was still Mayor.
Case to Be Scrutinized?
In addition to overhauling recruiting, the FDNY committed to improving its Equal Employment Opportunity performance including how it handles internal workplace-discrimination complaints.
The next conference on the status of the court's monitoring of the FDNY is Sept. 15. A source close to the proceedings said the department's handling of the photo parody mocking a black man's murder could come up.
"The judge reads the newspaper," the source said.
In January, the city filed preliminary papers with the court in hopes of ending the multi-year court monitoring, with Assistant Corporation Counsel Eric Eichenholtz stating, "After working for nearly a decade on these matters with the assistance of the Court and the Monitor, and with review by the parties, the evidence demonstrates that the City is in compliance with federal, state and local laws and has the capacity not only to identify and correct flaws going forward, but to continually reassess its processes and implement best practices on its own."
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