A black firefighter has admitted to staging a fake “hate crime” at a fire station in East Baltimore. Via the Baltimore Sun (emphasis added):
A firefighter who reported finding a knotted rope and a threatening note with a drawing of a noose in an East Baltimore station house last month had placed the items there himself, city officials said yesterday.
The man was suspended last week for performance-related issues and will likely face additional punishment, fire officials said. Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Police Department and for Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the man admitted to the hoax and will not face criminal charges.
Officials identified the firefighter who they say acknowledged writing the note as Donald Maynard, a firefighter-paramedic apprentice who is black. Maynard could not be reached for comment.
The rope incident sparked outrage two weeks ago and prompted a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations. It was the latest in a series of incidents that have cast the Fire Department in a poor light over the past year, including the death of a recruit in a training exercise and accusations of racism.
The news of the hoax came a day after a report released by the city’s inspector general found that the top performers on two recent Fire Department promotions exams likely cheated amid lapses in testing security.
A black firefighters group had called accusations of cheating racially motivated after union officials questioned the test scores. But the investigation found that five African-American firefighters had studied by using a 2001 exam, which is against test protocol.
On Nov. 21, a handwritten note and a rope were discovered about 1:30 a.m. by two Fire Department employees – one black and one white. It read, “We cant [sic] hang the cheaters but we can hang the failures. NO EMT-I, NO JOB.” A small stick figure with a noose and the word “Stop” were drawn below the message.
The note appeared to refer to the cheating investigation and a push by top fire officials to compel emergency medical technicians to become certified as paramedics. Maynard was among those whose jobs were at risk.
In a written statement yesterday, Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. said Maynard had admitted to “conducting a scheme meant to create the perception that members within our department were acting in a discriminatory and unprofessional manner.”
Firefighter unions in Baltimore are outraged out how the city’s mayor and black groups rushed to judgement and fanned racial tensions:
Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said that Maynard’s punishment had not been determined but that he could be fired.
Clifford, the spokesman for Dixon, said she was “pleased to find out that, in fact, there wasn’t a threat of that nature made at the firehouse.” He said the mayor is disappointed in the firefighter.
“It’s a terrible thing to be worried that firefighters are treating each other that way, and it’s good to know they’re not,” he said.
Yesterday, the leaders of the two city fire unions denounced Dixon, whose initial reaction to the reported incident was to deplore what she called “an act of hatred and intimidation.”
Stephan G. Fugate, head of the city fire officers union, said Dixon’s reaction contributed to racial tensions. He said members of the community became hostile toward firefighters after the mayor “came out and, in effect, said racism is running rampant.”
Union leaders also criticized the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Vulcan Blazers, a group that represents black firefighters, saying they, too, provoked racial tension by rushing to judgment.
“To put it mildly, this time we’re not going to let it go,” said Fugate. “The reaction from the NAACP, the mayor and the Vulcan Blazers was sickening, and we’re going to demand an apology.”
But in typical NAACP fashion, the president of the Baltimore NAACP is still treating the black firefighter as a victim:
But Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, president of the NAACP’s Baltimore chapter, said the fact that such an incident could occur shows that pervasive racial problems persist in the department.
“It really saddens us to hear that evidently things have reached a stage that even an African-American does an injustice to himself and his own people as a result of a negative culture in that department,” Cheatham said when asked to respond to the unions.
Once a “victim” always a “victim” – even when the “victim” perpetrates the crime.
Let’s take a look at some of the initial reactions when this “hate crime” was initially reported (emphasis added):
Yesterday, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Vulcan Blazers — a group that represents black city firefighters — demanded a federal investigation into the rope and note, while the fire union’s president said critics should not jump to conclusions.
In a written statement, Mayor Sheila Dixon said she was “outraged by this deplorable act of hatred and intimidation. … Threats and racial attacks are unacceptable anywhere — especially in a firehouse.”
At a news conference at the Vulcan Blazers’ headquarters near Druid Hill Park, President Henry Burris said his organization would demand a federal investigation by the Justice Department.
“We know there’s been racial issues with the Baltimore City Fire Department, but this has reached the final level,” Burris said. “Because whoever perpetrated it, whether they know it or not, this has reached the level of a federal hate crime.”
Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, president of the NAACP’s Baltimore chapter, referred to the note as a threat and said it should be treated as such.
“It’s got to go federal,” Cheatham said.
Joseph Armstead, a former firefighter and current vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said a culture of racism has always existed in the city Fire Department.
“I’m not really shocked or surprised,” said Armstead, a firefighter for 16 years. “It’s just getting outward now. And we’re not going to tolerate that.”
But apparently they’re not too concerned about the obvious racism that is rampant within their own organization, judging by their over-reactions to the fake noose incident.
BTW, regarding the mayor’s reaction to the intial reporting of the incident, here’s what she said would happen to the person responsible for leaving the noose and note:
She said anyone found guilty of using that note and leaving that noose in the fire station will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
You don’t see that in the WJZ article itself, which has, strangely, been edited not to include that part of the mayor’s statement, but you do hear/see it in the video, as reporter Gigi Barrnet reports what the mayor said about the incident.
I found the cached version of Dixon’s comments here, which won’t find in the uncached page:
The citizens of Baltimore expect public safety professionals to live up to the highest moral and ethical standards, and I do too. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from members of the Fire Department or other city employees. The Police and Fire Departments will conduct a thorough investigation. We will punish those responsible for this to the fullest extent of the law.”
In retrospect, Mayor Dixon should have been more honest and said any white person found to have committed this act would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Fake hate crime incidents in Baltimore, to her at least, apparently don’t count. And as far as apologies go? I won’t hold my breath on that happening.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.