Officer Facing Demotion Over Racist Joke Gets New Assignment

An Indiana firefighter who was accused of using a racial slur, has received a rather unusual penalty: he will now serve as the fire department’s liaison with an outside diversity consultant.

According to Courier & Press, Chad Emsweller of the Evansville Fire Department was accused of using a racial slur while telling what he believed to be a joke. Fire Chief Mike Connelly recommended Emsweller be demoted and serve a five-day suspension without pay. Emsweller had recently been promoted from Lieutenant to Fire Inspector in 2019.

At a January 14, 2020 meeting, Evansville Fire Department Merit Commissioner Talmadge Vick rejected Chief Connelly’s recommendation in favor of his own: “I’m looking at giving him a promotion vs. a demotion.” Commissioner Vick, who is black, said race-related problems in the department are systemic and demoting Emsweller, who is white, will not fix them.

Instead, he told Chief Connelly:

  • “I have a recommendation for you to talk to a diversity trainer who’s from the Evansville area, who has a Ph.D., who is a (University of Evansville) graduate, who understands Evansville and this environment.”
  • “What I’m going to recommend also…is that Chad (Emsweller) be a liaison to work with the diversity trainer, with yourself and with our commission.”

The merit commission unanimously supported the recommendation, which includes the five-day suspension and a one-year “zero-tolerance” probationary period.  Courier & Press quoted Chief Connelly as saying after the meeting:

  • “Talmadge Vick was very insightful in proposing a pathway to a solution to keep this problem from occurring in the future.”

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.
x

Check Also

Three Terminated Mass Firefighters Sue Claiming Retaliation

Three Massachusetts firefighters who were terminated just before Christmas last year have filed separate lawsuits claiming their firing was retaliation for cooperating with a state police investigation involving their current fire chief. Capt. Rebecca Boutin, FF David Kennedy and FF Kyle Miltimore filed their suits against the City of Westfield.

Cal Fire Local Sues To Ensure Seasonal Firefighters Are Protected by the Firefighter Procedural Bill of Rights

CAL FIRE Local 2881 has filed suit against the California State Personnel Board and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection challenging their refusal to provide seasonal firefighters with the protections of California Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act.