Human Rights Panel: Florida Mayor Might Need To Replace Fire Chief

A draft of a report of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission into racial incidents at the Jacksonville Fire Department contains allegations of discrimination toward minorities and women.

The draft obtained by Channel 4 Monday alleged unfair practices, including how discipline is applied in the department.

"Discipline is routinely administered in an inconsistent manner, with African-Americans and females receiving more severe discipline than white male employees," the report states.

The commission began its inquiry after nooses were found in the lockers of black firefighters at a downtown fire station earlier this year.

The report says the mayor should look closely at Fire Chief Rick Barrett and his staff, and that they may need to be replaced if racist attitudes in the department continue.

"The report was very in-depth, and we are going to take each one very seriously," Barrett said.

The Human Rights Commission said they had "come to the regrettable but firm conclusion that the noose incident at Station 4, and another noose incident are but highly visible manifestations of broader persistent problems."

Some examples of problems cited in the report include "unequal application of disciplinary rules and sanctions" and "widespread negative perceptions among African-American and female employees of inequities and favoritism throughout the department."

The reports states, "If there were African-Americans or women in a class, employees reported sometimes overhearing comments by members of the JFRD administration, including the human resource/EEO Manager, saying, 'Oh, we're trying to meet quota.'"

There were allegations that "excessive practical jokes, horseplay, harassing, hazing or intimidating behaviors is a norm at various fire stations and is allowed to exist without appropriate management intervention."

Female firefighters told commission members they were being "sexually harassed by male co-workers and a captain who is referred to as 'Jew Boy' while management looks the other way."

The allegations made in the report will have to be reviewed by Mayor John Peyton, who was out of town when the draft was released.

The head of the Black Firefighters Association said the report says a lot about the department. He said it's up to the mayor, not to fire the chief, to make changes.

"With the help of others in the community, I can't say, 'Take them out of place.' I dont believe that they should be fired if that's the case," said Alonzo McQueen, who heads the BFA.

The final report is expected to be released next week.

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