Raleigh Fire Department Racism Disputed

A Raleigh Fire Department captain disputes allegations of racism made recently by a department veteran who was passed over for the position of fire chief.

Assistant Fire Chief Larry Stanford alleged in a Dec. 31 letter to city officials that an administrator from Philadelphia was hired as chief because that man is white and Stanford is black. City officials have denied the claim, saying they conducted a national search for the best possible candidate.

Fire Capt. Damon Chapel agrees with city officials and blasted Stanford in a Jan. 10 letter that also was sent to City Manager Russell Allen.

"I have read the content of your letter, and I believe these allegations to be vindictive and inexcusable," Chapel wrote. "I have complete and utter confidence that the decision to name John McGrath as the fire chief was in no way, shape or form biased or influenced by the color of his skin or yours."

Chapel, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, praised city officials for obtaining input from firefighters on what criteria to use in evaluating candidates. He said that had never been done before, and he noted that most firefighters said a new chief needed to be hired from outside the department.

He also questioned why Stanford hasn't fought for more funding to boost minority recruitment in the fire department. He also criticized Stanford for publicizing his allegations instead of handling them though internal appeals.

"You chose to jeopardize the image of this department, our relationship with the public as well as the relationships of members of this department, all for your own personal gain," he wrote. "You believe that selecting a white male is sending the wrong message to minority members of this department. Conversely, I believe that your message is far more detrimental.

"Your message rings of division and hatred that will sound through all ranks of this department."

Stanford and Allen declined to comment on Chapel's letter. Allen called the situation a personnel matter.

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