Jeramey Jannene

Fire Department Investigating Brown Figure Hanging in “Looped Ribbon”

Charges expected to be read this week. Investigation underway since February.

By - Jun 28th, 2020 06:33 pm
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A Milwaukee Fire Department vehicle in downtown Milwaukee. Photo by Dave Reid.

A Milwaukee Fire Department vehicle in downtown Milwaukee. Photo by Dave Reid.

Sunday afternoon the Milwaukee Fire Department publicly acknowledged an investigation into a brown figurine found hanging from a “pink, looped ribbon” in one of its fire stations.

The investigation, underway since February 13th, “instantly” identified the employee responsible for the figurine.

“The investigation has now resulted in the identification of numerous members of the Milwaukee Fire Department, from the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, and Deputy Chief, who were aware of or should have been aware of, the potential for the presence of this figurine displayed in this manner to create a workplace not conducive to a diverse, welcoming, safe, and non-hostile environment,” said the department in a press release.

“Based upon the facts uncovered in the investigation, charges have been drawn up and are scheduled to be read this week. Additionally, numerous members will have letters of reprimand placed in their files, memorializing their failure to maintain good order,” said the department in a statement.

The independent Fire & Police Commission is responsible for hiring, firing, discipline and policies for the city’s police and fire departments, but not criminal charges. The department said the commission did not lead the investigation, but is aware of the matter.

The fire department said the investigation did not find any evidence of “a deliberate or intentional racist or sexist intent, nor an effort to target any individual member or group,” and emphasized that it “finds any word, action, or deed which negatively impacts any of our members…based upon age, culture, ethnicity, race” as “reprehensible”.

“We affirm our mission to attain and foster a diverse work force,” the statement declared. “The Milwaukee Fire Department understands this incident did not meet our expectations or our obligations, and we have work to do in order to rebuild the trust and solid relations we have long enjoyed across all communities.”

The entire fire department will undergo anti-harassment training within the coming months. “Further, in concert with the Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters and the Milwaukee Fire Department’s senior management, an educational video highlighting and reinforcing our standards and our collective responsibility to achieve those standards will be produced and distributed internally. It is our hope that from this wretched episode greater understanding and positive and real change will occur,” said the department.

The Milwaukee Fire Department is led by Chief Mark Rohlfing. The chief praised Fire & Police Commission Executive Director Griselda Aldrete at her reappointment hearing on Thursday. Rohlfing has led the department since 2010.

The department said a press conference will be held in the coming days to provide more details.

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