Traditionally, firefights bring a small gift to their newly assigned station house. Members of Engine 55, a predominantly Black firehouse in Detroit, were instantly offended when a newly minted firefighter brought a watermelon topped with a pink ribbon.
WJBK-TV reports that fire department officials terminated Robert Pattison for his gift, even though he claims ignorance, not expecting that his gift would offend his Black colleagues.
Fire Commissioner Eric Jones issued this statement, via the Fox News affiliate:
“There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.
Jones added that the department decided “after a thorough investigation” that firing Pattison was “the best course of action.”
Second Battallion Chief Shawn McCarty, who’s Black, told the news outlet that the tradition of bringing a gift to a new assignment is voluntary, and firefighters typically bring doughnuts.
Pattison, 41, was a probationary firefighter who recently graduated from the fire academy. He told the WJBK-TV that he did not intend to offend anyone, adding that it was not a joke.
Firefights at the station told the news outlet that Pattison should have known better. Still, McCarty said that he should not have been fired.
“Between what he did, and [losing] his job, there were a few things that could have been done [by officials], he told WJBK-TV.
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