EL PASO, TX An ugly social media name-calling argument between an El Paso firefighter, who calls police officers “pigs,” and a possible police officer, who says firefighters don’t have courage, is raising concern among both departments and their unions.
A photo on the 915 On Blast Facebook page on Monday showed a patrol car from Lafayette, Ind., parked in a handicapped space while a man in a motorized scooter looks quizzically at the camera.
The photo caption reads: “Sad thing is we’ve seen this in El Paso.”
Several people on Facebook responded to the caption, including an Omar Martinez, who is an El Paso firefighter. He wrote, in part: “(That’s) why they are called pigs We park our fire engines far away from the normal parking for people then walk to the stores.”
Martinez’s post, drew a response from someone named Joel Holguin, who insinuates that he is a police officer, but doesn’t say where he works. He wrote: “U guys won’t get near a fire without gear..me and my partners have gotten people out of burning cars with no gear..u guys won’t make an ‘unsafe’ scene without us.”
He then wrote — in vulgar words — that firefighters were “sissies.”
Neither the El Paso Police Department or city officials could confirm late Tuesday if Holguin works for the city.
However, in light of the posted comments both the El Paso Association of Firefighters and the El Paso Municipal Police Officers’ Association said that while firefighters and police officers are entitled to free speech, neither organization condones the statements expressed by both men.
“You still have a right to free speech. The problem is bringing discredit to the department is a violation of our policies,” said Ron Martin, president of the El Paso Municipal Police Officers’ Association. “They are both first responders. They are representing the city of El Paso.”
Martin also voiced displeasure with the 915 On Blast Facebook page for instigating commentary based on a photo of an incident that didn’t take place in El Paso.
Martin said that playful banter between firefighters and police officers has been a longstanding tradition. They have inspired both competition and collaboration throughout the years. He added however, that there was a fine line between competitive banter, professional decorum and inappropriate social media etiquette.
“We do have that competitive drive against each other and that’s always going to be there,” Martin said.
He added that if Holguin is an active police officer, he would probably receive some training on social media etiquette.
El Paso police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo added in an email, “The El Paso Fire Department and the El Paso Police Department have a longstanding excellent working relationship built on trust, mutual respect and a common goal of serving the Citizens of El Paso.”
Joe Tellez, president of the El Paso Association of Firefighters, said his union did not condone the comments made by Martinez.
“The Facebook page is an open door to the world. We tell our guys to be careful. You don’t know who’s out there,” Tellez said. “We’ve had issues in the past come to our attention and we try to get ahold of the member and let them know that that’s something that they shouldn’t be doing.”
Tellez said that El Paso has approximately 850 El Paso firefighters, 800 of whom are union members. He added that Martinez was not a member and could not confirm whether he was an active firefighter.
El Paso Fire Department spokesman Carlos Briano said that the department’s professional standard division typically does not investigate a social media posting unless a citizen makes a complaint about something that was said or posted online.
Neither Martinez nor Holguin could be reached for comment.
From The El Paso Times