Concerns about racism in Long Island fire department over social media posts

HEMPSTEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- There are growing calls for the removal of a Long Island firefighter who is accused of making racially insensitive posts on social media.

The Hempstead Fire Department is 188 years old but its first Black member didn't join until 1980.

"I was called the N word over the radio, not in the '60s, but in the '80s," Waylyn Hobbs said.

But Hobbs, the trustee for emergency services in Hempstead, says history is repeating itself with racist posts allegedly made by one of its members.

One post essentially "praised" the hosing down of Black protesters.

The other referred to two Brown-skinned people as animals. The firefighter was suspended.

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"The suspension was based on the fact that he had an open jacket and the fact of the matter that what he did was bad, distasteful, unacceptable -- but I didn't think it rose to the level of termination," said Hempstead Mayor Don Ryan.

But according to many others, he should have been terminated.

They say the governing body for the fire department isn't acting in good faith and should be replaced by a commission that is made up of only Hempstead residents and reflects the community, which is 94 percent Black and Latino.
"The resolution that's being put forth by trustee Hobbs increases the level of transparency into the fire department and it begins to repair the community's trust of that institution," said Trustee Jeffrey Daniels.

While resident Clarion Griffith says she appreciates the work firefighters do, she's worried about racism.

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"He feels that protesters should be hosed down is not someone that I want to come to my house," Griffith said. "He should have been removed."

The first assistant chief defended the department and said the employee will go through sensitivity training and that residents shouldn't worry about their commitment.

"Regardless of your race and gender, anything, we're coming to help," First Assistant Chief Chad Mott said.

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