A Detroit firefighter was kicked to the curb after a gesture to his fellow coworkers was taken as a racial offensive.
WJBK’s Fox2Detroit reports last month, 41-year-old Robert Pattison had the opportunity to show appreciation to his new coworkers at the Engine 55 at Joy and Southfield. As a new recruit, Pattison was encouraged to participate in a traditional bearing of gifts to the vets on the squad. While not mandatory, most bring simple treats like doughnuts. Pattison decided to take a different approach by bringing a large watermelon with a pink bow on top.
Roughly 90 percent of the team is African-American and a majority of them found the gift racially insensitive. “When you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,” team member Patrick Trout said. “So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said after a “thorough investigation,” they decided to terminate Pattison’s employment. “There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department,” he said. “After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.”
But not all firefighters were happy to see Pattison go. Tadarius Spearman posted to social media a photo of his former coworker, along with other members of his class defending Pattison.
“Just want to let everyone know he’s a real amazing dude and it was all good intentions,” he said. “And our entire class (is) supporting him in this. Especially us African-Americans and that’s all that needs to be said. Stay up brother. #DFD.”
Pattison maintains that the gift was just that and not an insult to the Engine 55 team.