Firefighter Retires After Racist Text

NEW HAVEN, CT — After sending an image to colleagues making fun of the police killing of George Floyd, a 25-year veteran city firefighter retired on July 4 — averting discipline from commissioners who said they could do little more than condemn his behavior.

The now-retired firefighter in question is Bob Crisco, a 25-year veteran who worked at the Dixwell Station on Goffe Street.

The Board of Fire Commissioners met virtually via Zoom Tuesday afternoon to discuss and rebuke Crisco for a text message that he recently sent to colleagues.

That text message included a doctored image of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the neck of police brutality victim George Floyd. The image was captioned, “Look who’s taking a knee now.”

Crisco sent the message to a group of other city firefighters via text message, according to the commissioners.

The commissioners unanimously condemned Crisco’s behavior, and voted to add a report on the incident to Crisco’s official departmental record. They were unable to take any further disciplinary measures because Crisco retired last Saturday.

“The photo that was circulated by Firefighter Crisco reflects so poorly on the city and is something that I condemn with every ounce of my body,” Mayor Justin Elicker said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting.

“Is there no other recourse that we have?” Elicker asked his fellow commissioners. “The idea that firefighters can retire and avoid consequences is offensive and wrong.”

“The only recourse we have is that we still have the personnel file,” Cathleen Simpson, the city’s director of labor relations, answered. And so the firefighters put a report about the incident into his file.

“I just find it heartbreaking that one of our firefighters—given the population of the community that we serve—that he would find it appropriate to send that type of picture out,” said Fire Commission Chair Steven Cousin, who is also a pastor at one of New Haven’s historic Black congregations.

Crisco did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, and could not be reached for comment by the publication time of this article.

The image Crisco sent out made light of a fictional violent interaction between Floyd and Kaepernick, both Black men who have become national symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In late May, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin suffocated Floyd by holding a knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, igniting protests against police brutality across the globe (including here in New Haven). In 2016, Kaepernick protested police brutality by kneeling, rather than standing, during the national anthem at football games.

This wasn’t the first time that Crisco, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, was reprimanded by the fire commission during his long tenure working for the city.

In 2014, he was suspended for 15 days after being linked to tens of thousands of dollars worth of illegal fireworks.

Crisco retired three days before the Board of Fire Commissioners met over Zoom on Tuesday. The Board is required to notify firefighters facing disciplinary proceedings four days in advance of the meeting.

“Dangerous Precedent”

On Tuesday, fire commissioners voted to keep the Internal Affairs investigation’s findings in Crisco’s file, where it can affect the future of his career with the department should he choose to apply for reemployment.

Cousin said he wished the commission could do more.

“We’re setting a dangerous precedent here,” he said. “We’re saying that if they beat out the clock, there is nothing we can do. I find that very disheartening and discouraging.”

Crisco retired after spending most of his career working at a station in the majority-Black neighborhood of Dixwell.

Patrick Cannon, the newly elected union president of Local 825, also condemned Crisco’s text. “That was one person, and unfortunately it was a 25-year career that he walked out of,” he said. “I can vouch that 99.9 percent of my members are in 100 percent agreement that this is terrible.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Paul Nunez implored firefighters who witness racist remarks or actions to come forward. “They should feel that this board is gonna support them if they do come across any acts of this,” he said.

On July 4, Crisco posted about his retirement on Facebook. “25 + years today its official retirement from the FD,” he wrote. “Leaving the best job in the world. Going to miss it. Lots of good times and sleepless nights.”

He received a stream of “congratulations” from Facebook friends in the comments.

From The New Haven Independent