BWI Acting Fire Chief Alleges Race Discrimination

The acting fire chief at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) who was terminated last week has announced plans to challenge his termination, which his attorney characterizes as racially motivated.

Gregory Lawrence was the first African-American to lead the BWI fire department. Incidentally, BWI is now named the Thurgood Marshall Airport, after the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Chief Lawrence was initially appointed to the department in 2007 after having sued for race discrimination in 2003. He was appointed acting chief last November. He was terminated on March 5, days after the department was criticized for hiring an “all white” class of new firefighters, and the day before a new fire chief, Victor N. Ferreira Jr., was announced. Chief Ferreira is Hispanic.

Chief Lawrence sued in 2003 when he was not hired by BWI in 2001. The suit was settled in 2006 resulting in Lawrence receiving a $100,000 settlement. He was subsequently hired in 2007 as a deputy chief.

His attorney, Alan Legum, points to racial disparities in the department and was quoted as saying we “have to believe this is retaliation for Chief Lawrence’s six-year battle to get his position.”

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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