FBI Investigating Noose Found in Locker of Minnesota Firefighter

The FBI is investigating the presence of a noose in the locker of an African American firefighter in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to the city, a “piece of rope resembling a noose” was found in the firefighter’s locker on June 15, but not reported to fire department leadership until June 23.

Mayor Tim Busse issued a statement yesterday to the community:

Dear Community,

I regret to inform you about some horrible news regarding an incident at one of the City’s fire stations.

A piece of rope tied into what appears to be a crude noose was discovered in the gear locker of a Black firefighter at a Bloomington fire station on June 15. The incident was reported to Fire Department leadership on June 23. The City of Bloomington has asked the FBI to investigate the matter. 

I am disgusted, angry, and embarrassed by this cowardly act. To be clear, this incident is very serious and is being dealt with aggressively. The City of Bloomington, including the Fire Department, is committed to being a safe and respectful place to work for all employees. We will not tolerate or, in any way, condone such behavior. The City has a strict workplace policy that forbids all types of discriminatory and disrespectful behavior. 

I spoke to staff in a town hall forum setting this week and made it explicitly clear that there is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our organization. Violators of our respectful workforce policy will be held accountable. Fire Chief Ulie Seal emphatically concurred in a statement with regard to this incident within the Bloomington Fire Department.

“Acts like this that embody hate, intimidation, and aggression will not be tolerated,” said Chief Seal. “The firefighter who brought this to our attention has demonstrated extreme strength and bravery and has done the right thing.”

I recognize that learning about this incident may be particularly traumatic for our Black community members given the history of nooses being used as a symbol of hate and intimidation and a tool of horrific violence. I want you to know that I am here and I am available if you would like to contact me.

We want to hold the person or persons who committed this act, or any hate crime, accountable. If you have tips or information or want to report a hate crime, we urge you to contact the FBI’s Minneapolis field office at 763-569-8000.

This week, I asked our employees to reach out to me or another executive leader if they have concerns regarding our workplace.  Next week we’ll be bringing in an expert mental health consultant to address the emotional, social, and psychological trauma that results from racial traumatic events. We are committed to providing them with the care and support that they need now and in the future.

Equity and Inclusion is a strategic priority of the City Council. It is now evident that we need to act ever more urgently to advance racial equity in our community. At our City Council meeting on July 13, racial equity will be a primary focus. Our racial equity coordinator will introduce a plan for how we can act urgently to advance racial equity while being thoughtful and intentional about creating meaningful change. 

While the important work of racial reconciliation is being done around the country and right here at home, it is clear there is much more work to be done. I recognize that there is work to do in the City of Bloomington, both in our organization and in our community.  If we truly want to be a safe and inclusive City, we can’t shy away from doing the work. So although I am disappointed and disheartened, I remain committed to acting courageously to advance racial equity. I invite you to join me in doing the same. 

Finally, I recognize that many people are anxious for answers but this is an active investigation. The City will provide a statement with any additional information we have available by 3:30 p.m. on Monday, June 29, 2020.

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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