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

Court Upholds Termination of San Jose Firefighter

A San Jose firefighter who was terminated in 2009, has lost a second appeal to the California Court of Appeals. Grant Seibert was terminated following allegations that he sent sexually suggestive emails to a 16-year old girl who visited the fire station, and for his behavior toward a female colleague.

San Diego Firefighter Loses Appeal of Suspensions

A San Diego firefighter who was suspended over two incidents that occurred in 2012 and 2013, has lost his appeal to have the discipline overturned by the California Court of Appeals. Michael Meoli was involved in separate incidents February 2012 and January 2013 that each resulted in a 24-hour suspension.