On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman said the department was investigating an incident in which a firefighter “responded inappropriately” when presented with the city’s vaccination mandate letter.
In response to receiving a non-compliance letter, the LAFD member dropped his pants and used the letter to wipe his buttocks, leaving fecal matter behind, according to the Stentorians of Los Angeles City, a group representing African American firefighters.
Among the Fire Department’s ranks, there is strong resistance to the city’s requirement that all employees be vaccinated, according to the alleged incident.
According to an LAFD spokesperson, Cheryl Getuiza, the alleged incident took place on November 18th. There are “serious allegations” and “immediate action” taken, according to the department’s spokeswoman, who declined to discuss the specifics.
If there are any “inappropriate acts,” Getuiza says the firefighter is on paid administrative leave and will be punished. She didn’t go into detail about what prompted her to leave the company.
The Stentorian said in a statement to the Board of Fire Commissioners and city leaders that an LAFD captain and a chief officer witnessed the incident. According to the group, it took place at Pacific Palisades Fire Station 69.
“The LA City Stentorians are sickened and disgusted by this horrific display of unprofessionalism,” the Stentorians said in a statement. No one from the LAFD administration has contacted us so far to express their outrage at this disrespectful, harassing behavior.
Members of the group urged the mayor and city council to “take immediate action to deter any city employee from feeling entitled and not encouraged but empowered to behave in such an embarrassing and threatening manner.”
As a “terminable” offense, the Stentorian described the act in question. They included a photo of a man holding what appeared to be a discolored document in their statement.
On Friday, The Times spoke to a person who answered a phone number associated with the man in the photo and said that the man was unavailable. The person on the other end of the phone told the reporter that they had the wrong number when they called back.
On Friday, the Stentorian sent a photo of themselves to the Fire Department.
“We are aware of an incident where a member responded inappropriately to a hand-delivered letter to comply,” Getuiza said in a statement Friday.
City employees must follow the city ordinance “no matter how our members react,” Getuiza said. “Either file for an exemption, get vaccinated, or face termination.”
According to Getuiza, the department’s Professional Standards Division was investigating the incident on Monday after it was entered into a complaint tracking system.
On Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s spokesman, Harrison Wollman, refused to comment on the alleged incident.
According to a statement Wollman made Wednesday, “the mayor’s expectation is that fire department leadership will handle this matter definitively, and make it clear that these appalling actions will not deter enforcement of rules we’ve put in place to save lives,” Wollman said.
Jimmie Woods-Gray, president of the Fire Commission, said he was “beyond appalled” by the LAFD firefighter’s act on Wednesday. “Strong corrective action” is required, she said.
As part of the city’s new vaccination mandate, the city has sent vaccination compliance notices to employees. By Dec. 18, workers who haven’t been vaccinated or have requested exemptions from vaccination must sign a form stating that they must submit proof of vaccination.
Not signing those notices will result in their dismissal and their pay being halted while they await notice of “proposed separation,” according to the memo sent to city departments by Garcetti.
Firefighters have been expressing their outrage over the vaccination mandate for months now.
Firefighters 4 Freedom, a newly formed group, is suing the city over the city’s vaccination rules, while a firefighter’s YouTube video criticizing the mandate went viral in August.
Additionally, some employee groups are calling for the removal of LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas, who they claim is not doing enough to combat harassment and bullying, particularly against female firefighters.
While many in the department are frustrated by perceived discrepancies between the way top brass punishes sworn members, a recent survey found an overwhelming number of firefighters lack trust in those in charge of the department.
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