Six Miami firefighters were fired on Wednesday after they hung a noose over a black colleague’s family photo and drew a penis on his wife picture, officials said.
The Miami Herald reported that someone had created a noose out of twine and hung it over the family photo of an African-American lieutenant. Other colleagues also drew lewd pictures on several other photos, including one of his wife.
The firefighters defaced “several personal photos of a fellow firefighter with graphic and obscene phallic renderings,” the termination letters sent Wednesday said, the newspaper reported.
The incident occurred on Sept. 9.
Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said in a statement that investigators uncovered “sexually explicit and racially offensive conduct” by the city’s employees.
“We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is disrespectful, hurtful and compromises the integrity of the department and the City of Miami,” he said.
Alfonso said personnel assigned to the station were transferred after the incident was reported, adding that 11 firefighters were relieved from duty with pay ahead of Wednesday’s firings.
According the Herald, more than 20 people were interviewed under oath and nearly a dozen firefighters were investigated. Five remain employed by the department and under scrutiny.
The firefighters terminated were identified as: Kevin Meizoso, David Rivera, Justin Rumbaugh, Harold Santana, Alejandro Sese and William W. Bryson, the son of former Miami Fire Chief William “Shorty” Bryson.
In the termination letters, officials said Sese was the one who came up with the idea of obtaining the photos and defacing them. Meizoso, Rumbaugh and Santana drew the phallic images while Rivera returned them to their picture frames.
Bryson is accused of failing to stop the vandalism and ignoring requests from subordinates to come forward and report the incident, the Herald reported.
Sources told the newspaper that investigators could not determine who was behind the noose.
Under the city’s civil service procedures, the fired firefighters can dispute their terminations.
The incident is the latest blemish for the city’s fire department, which has a history of lewd pranks.
In the late 1980s, rookies were handcuffed while other firefighters sat on their faces during a hazing ritual. Four firefighters were fired at the time, but reinstated after investigators determined the hazing ritual was an old department tradition, the Herald reported.
Under Shorty Bryson’s leadership, the department’s union kicked out 64 black firefighters who claimed they were expelled over their support of the city’s Affirmative Action program. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later found that their civil rights had been violated.