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  1. #1
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Default racist/reaction?

    From the home page of Firehouse.com
    A black DC fire captain says a fire instructor at a federal training school used racial slurs directed at him and handed him a Ku Klux Klan application. This was just eight days ago, last Wednesday, at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

    First there was an offensive comic strip featuring a character called Super Whitey, who is out and in search of blacks and Jewish citizens.

    Then instructor began to distribute KKK applications to the class, with his attention centered on Captain Humphrey.

    Then came the racial slur, when Dr. John Popenfus allegedly used the 'N' word. All the above was directed at DC Fire Captain Clifton Humphrey of Station 29.

    The instructor was Dr. John Popenfus of Frederick, Maryland, who quickly captured the attention of a packed classroom, who were shocked at the teachers conduct.

    Over the telephone, Popenfus didn't want to talk about the July 30th incident, and referred all comment to the National Fire Academy, where a FEMA spokesperson said little to nothing to defend the instructor who was escorted from the property less than 90 minutes after the incident.

    Doctor John Popenfus taught fire classes at the National Fire Academy for the last two decades without as single mark on his teaching record. That was until last Wednesday. The long-time instructor is expected to receive his formal termination letter sometime next week.

    As for Captain Humphrey, he says his learning days at the Academy may now be over, along with his dreams of one day becoming a chief. He told 9 News, "I can't take it anymore."


    John Popenfus was rightfully terminated. The fire service has enough problems...

    Captain Humphrey, in effect, has let Popenfus and his ilk win by giving up.

    Just my 3 cents worth, Captains have to pay a little more!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


  2. #2
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Question What in the Hell?.............

    After reading Gonzo's post, I rushed out to find a calendar, to see what year this is. I'm back, and it's 2003, I thought we might have slipped back to 1950 while I was taking a nap. (Sort of a reverse Rip Van Winkle) Anyway, if proven AFTER an investigation, termination from his post is a very light penalty for the alleged conduct of the instructor. Does anyone know if this guy is from Scott County? Just wondering....... Stay Safe....
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  3. #3
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Is this guy actually IN the KKK or was it some lame-*** joke? What a clown. I hate that Capt. Humphrey is allegedly giving up, but I can understand how one could feel that keeping up the "good fight" is no longer worth the trouble and decide to move on. This is a wake-up call for those of us who don't think discrimination exists in the fire service. It does...and for many other reasons besides race. Outspoken racists usually only wind up making themselves look like the idiots they are. It's the discrimination that lurks silently behind closed doors and out of sight that is the real problem.

  4. #4
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    Twenty years without a problem, now this? There must be more to this story.
    Stay Safe ~ The Dragon Still Bites!

  5. #5
    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    There's a thread parallel to this topic running as well.Racial Slurs at National Fire Academy

    Without repeating what I posted there verbatim, I have to be concerned that this guy is having some kind of meltdown. He has obviously either developed, or allowed to surface, a real problem with black people. Now he's being fired because of a black man, or least I'm sure he sees it that way. What's that going to do to him.

    Stable people just don't step over the edge like this without some kind of reason, be it psychological or some other cause. The guy needs a professional assessment. I see some serious issues here beyond the outright stupidity of his actions.
    Steve Gallagher
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  6. #6
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    Angry Deserved to be fired...AT THE LEAST!!!

    How's everyone doing? I must say sitting in my office this morning reading about this incident, I became really angry at the audacity of this training officer. First off let me begin this was... Steamer you said "Now he's being fired because of a black man, or least I'm sure he sees it that way. What's that going to do to him." I must respectfully disagree with this statement. The instructor is NOT being fired because of a black man, he is being fired for the ill-will he displayed not only toward his brother firefighter, but to the fire service as a whole. No matter which way you look at it he brought this on himself, and I could really care less what it does to him. I know racism exists in firefighting, it exists everywhere. However there are some things you keep to yourself. Look at it this way...The instructor is a racist, however misguided he is entitled to his own ideals and beliefs; I mean this is America. BUT had he kept his trap shut and continued to teach the way he had for 20 years he would still have his job AND a brother firefighter would still have the ambition to become a chief.
    I am a huge fan of joking around, I feel it builds brotherhood and is a great way to lighten up the mood around the station. As the only African American member in my station, sometimes the jokes become racial. I can take jokes as well as I dish them back out, however we respect the fact that there are certainly areas that are not to be crossed into. Namely the N-bomb. Nobody, not even me, drops the N-bomb. Overall though, the stuff we say at my station is all in good fun. What this fire instructor did was WWWWAAAAYYYY past the point of brotherly jokes. To tell you the truth I would not be surprised if criminal charges are filed, harassment in the workplace is illegal.
    It's stuff like this that makes all firefighters look bad; and I think the fire service, as a whole, needs to work on our image. This incident certainly doesn't help. I just hope Capt. Humphrey reconsiders his decision to "give-up." In the past few years we have lost too many good firefighters, and the problem is there are more knuckleheads filling their ranks. Anyway thats just my opinion. Stay safe out there.


    Titann

  7. #7
    Forum Member Smoke20286's Avatar
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    I disagree, stuff like this doesn't make us all look bad, but it does reveal that there are still some racist people out there. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with discovering them, or removing them from positions of authority, where ever they may be.


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  8. #8
    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    Titann-
    I think either I didn't explain my point or you missed it. My point being that this instructor, whether a racist or not, had a spotless record for 20 years, and suddenly spews forth with this stuff, then uses racial epithets to the Captain. Something happened to pull his trigger. What was it? Is there a psychological issue? Had there been a recent event involving somebody else, and he saw the Captain as a surrogate offender? Whatever the reason, now he probably perceives that he's being fired because of a black man. He may not even see his actions as even a factor, or at least ignores that fact.

    I'm not saying now, nor was I saying in my previous post, that his firing was literally because of a black man. As I re-read it though, I see how it sounds that way. That wasn't it; far from it. I was speaking solely of the instructor's potential perceptions. My point to all this is:
    • if the captain was selected as a surrogate target because of his race, and the instructor now perceives that he has again been victimized (fired) because of a black man, how is he going to respond to this?
    • could this escalate into something violent, possibly against another unwary "surrogate"?
    I don't know this man. I have no idea of his potential reaction. Thus my questions. It was in that vein when I asked, "What's that going to do to him."

    My concern is that this paroxysmal display of racist behavior doesn't just happen. This is someone that has a spotless record by available accounts. Perhaps not. How many times though have we seen someone snap, for whatever perceived justification on their part, and hurt/kill someone else, and then hear the talking heads parade his friends and neighbors across the screen and talk of what a nice guy he was, and that he kept to himself, never bothered anyone, etc, etc, etc. Everybody distances themselves from the issue by claiming, "Who could have known?"

    I just hope that somebody is looking at the underlying causes of this sudden behavioral change. Maybe the usual parade of TV interviews can be prevented, and more importantly keep someone from being injured or killed. Like 5pts384, I think there's more to this story than is being told. I don't think much, if any of it really has much to do with Captain Humphrey. This may be over-analytical thought on my part, but I just see some real potential here.

    Just to be perfectly clear, Titann, I am in total agreement with your assessment of the true causative issues of his firing, and I have no problem with it in any way, shape, or form. One of my best friends on earth is a black firefighter in my station, and we have the same kind of relationship as far as jokes go that you speak of. Life in the firehouse doesn't have to involve walking on eggshells. It comes down to having respect for one another. And that's true regardless of the color of your skin.

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  9. #9
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    As a former student at the NFA,I am sickened by the the actions of the instructer using our nations premier fire academy as a place for him to destroy what it has taken this country to build in the last 228 yrs. Let us stop labeling each other by our color and our cultures. I thought after 9 11 that we realized that we are all AMERICANS.

  10. #10
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    It does...and for many other reasons besides race. Outspoken racists usually only wind up making themselves look like the idiots they are. It's the discrimination that lurks silently behind closed doors and out of sight that is the real problem.
    Couldn't agree more the loud mouths are easy to take care of(they usually say something stupid and get themselves canned. Its the closet racist that is the danger to our countries minorities.

    Titann, You make some great points it is very easy for us all to get along regardless of color and have fun with the racist type jokes as long as certain boundries are not crossed. The problem is until you know someone really well you dont know what the lines are. Hence the need to learn to remain PC as much as possible.

    I think these kind of stories as individual incidents are not bad for the fire service but collectively with all the other stories we start to look bad to the public. The instant and worldwide news is bad for everyone. How many of you truly trust corporate accountants after the Enron debacle?

  11. #11
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    QUOTE from Firehouse.com

    As for Captain Humphrey, he says his learning days at the Academy may now be over, along with his dreams of one day becoming a chief. He told 9 News, "I can't take it anymore."

    Most Officers might have said
    NO COMMENT!

    HMMMMMMMMM

  12. #12
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Default

    ????

  13. #13
    Forum Member Firegod343's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Captain12
    QUOTE from Firehouse.com

    As for Captain Humphrey, he says his learning days at the Academy may now be over, along with his dreams of one day becoming a chief. He told 9 News, "I can't take it anymore."

    Most Officers might have said
    NO COMMENT!

    HMMMMMMMMM
    Capt. 12,

    I'm not sure where you heading with that, but my suggestion is don't. Captain Humphries' is an outstanding individual, and he, along with 20 other brother and sister firefighters, had to put up with 8 days of Popenfus's insults, threats, and slurs.

    I, for one, don't disagree with Captain Humphries'comments, although I'm certain this will not deter him from future endeavors.

    FG
    Last edited by Firegod343; 08-09-2003 at 11:45 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Some reactions:
    1. Kudos to the NFA for immediately removing Dr. Popenfus.
    2. To Dr. Popenfus - what kind of idiot are you to say things like that in any forum? You have to know they are totally unacceptable and the consequences are high.
    3. To Dr. Popenfus - what kind of failure of the fire service family are you to look at folks based on the color of their skin and not on the content of their character and their performance in the service?
    4. To Capt. Humphrey - is there something more going on? Why are you letting 8 days of class with someone saying totally unacceptable things deter you from pursuing your ambitions back in your home dept.? How do 8 days stack up with the rest of your life?

    I think Steamer's assessment may be right - something could very well be serious wrong with the teacher if he suddenly switched into such grossly unacceptable behavior.

    I think Capt. Humphrey would do well to not make any decisions on what hopes to give up or comments to make about it until he sees how his own dept. reacts to this incident.
    Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.

  15. #15
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    Angry Most Importantly....... Capt. Humphrey

    Whatever set off this instructor, (it does sound like there is more to this, after many years of apparently good service to have this happen), the most important consideration is Capt. Humphrey..

    Hey Capt. Humphrey, I don't know you from Adam, but please don't let the actions of this one individual reflect on us all. We all all your brothers, (I am not referring to the ethnic use of 'Brother'), I mean this great brotherhood of firefighters.

    GOD BLESS AND BE CAREFUL OUT THERE.

  16. #16
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    I am alarmed and disappointed at the actions of Dr. John. Having been one of his students last year, I found him to be a personable, professional instructor who was very knowledgeable in his field.

    His actions and comments are inexcusable. The NFA handled the incident properly as I hope any professional agency would. However I feel something must have precipitated this outburst. Somebody needs to get the good Doctor hooked up with some professional counseling. Somethings is going on upstairs and if not handled properly, Dr. John could possibly pose a danger to himself or others.

    This outburst could be the onset or the finale of a long battle with a personal problem. I hope he gets the help he needs to get past this and get on with his life. I am sure this is the end of a bright career in the fire service and its a shame it ended this way.

    We have the right to be upset. We have the duty to be compassionate if this is anything other than a political viewpoint.
    Last edited by Richard; 08-09-2003 at 02:25 AM.

  17. #17
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    I consider it a privelege to be an adjunct instructor at the NFA. I cannot imagine what the hell this guy was thinking when he did this. He deserves everything he gets.

    If you want to know why the matter was handled as well as it was, you have to look no further than Denis Onieal. First, he is from Jersey and takes no BS. Second, I have known him for almost 25 years, having him as an instructor at Jersey City State College, and after that as a mentor and a friend. You will never meet a man with higher integrity than Denis. He is also a real guy who will never forget his roots...the firehouse. Go up to him at the NFA and talk to him and see how he genuinely cares what you have to say about the fire service and about the NFA. He is absolutely the best thing that ever happened to the NFA.

    BTW, what did this guy teach?

  18. #18
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    Don't know what he was teaching when the incident took place but when I was there he was teaching "Fire Service Course Design"

  19. #19
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    I will say that it's a credit to the NFA that they escorted this individual off the campus in 90 minutes; lots of places wouldn't have the guts to do that without several visits to their lawyers.
    Having attended several course at Emmitsburg one of the best facets of the campus is the ability to interact with people from all over the country; where else can you sit down over a few pitchers with a Capt. from DC; a Batt. Chief from LA, a Lt. from Alabama and (usually) 6 guys from Phoenix.....it's great. And that doesn't even count the actual courses.
    And to Capt Humphrey.....brother, don't let this dope win. Most of us mercifully aren't like that, thank God. Hang in there.

  20. #20
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    I think it is great that this person has "left the building" ........and I am right there with Hwoods...........what a shame that this hapened ........I feel very sorry for DC Capt Humphery's for having to remotely endure this sort of crap.
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