Chicago Fire Chief Resigns Amid Probe

The city's fire chief resigned Thursday amid an investigation into the department's handling of a deadly high-rise fire and an uproar over racial slurs broadcast over firefighter radios.


CHICAGO (AP) -- The city's fire chief resigned Thursday amid an investigation into the department's handling of a deadly high-rise fire and an uproar over racial slurs broadcast over firefighter radios.

Mayor Richard Daley named Cortez Trotter, the head of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, to replace James Joyce, who retired after 4 1/2 years as fire commissioner and 39 with the department.

Joyce, who came from a family of firefighters, said he is proud of his accomplishments but had been thinking about retiring for a while and wanted to spend more time with his family. His resignation is effective at the end of the month.

Joyce and his successor referred to the racial slurs, at least six of which have been heard over department frequencies since February. Trotter's office has been trying to trace the slurs and identify which radios were used. Two people have been disciplined.

Joyce, 61, called the repeated broadcasting of slurs ``the stupid acts of a few'' and said they leave him feeling ``betrayed. Not as a fire chief; I feel betrayed as a citizen of the city.''

Trotter, 49, a former first deputy superintendent under Joyce, warned that such behavior would not be tolerated.

``Let me serve notice to those who wrongfully believe that the department is a haven for small mindedness, offensive behavior and stagnation,'' said Trotter, who is black. ``We are entering a new era for the Chicago Fire Department. Please recognize that for what it is or be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.''

James McNally, president of the Chicago firefighters union, praised Joyce for doing ``a great job,'' saying the membership ``had very good feelings'' about him. ``I think he tried to look out for the people who worked for him,'' McNally said.

Three weeks ago, Daley said he had confidence in Joyce despite continuing questions about how the fire department handled the Oct. 17 fire that killed six at the Cook County administration building.

A panel investigating the fire heard testimony from a deputy director of fire operations, who said Joyce was told that people were trapped in stairwells. Joyce, who was not at the scene of the fire, did not order a search of the stairwells at the time, and a search didn't take place until much later.

Daley expressed his support for Joyce and pointed out there were deputies at the scene who had the authority to order a search.

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