MERIDIAN TWP, MI – Officials have fired a firefighter who made racist comments on social media.
Township Manager Frank Walsh said officials have fired firefighter Dennis Schrier after “serious violations of the standards of our Fire Department and this Township.”
“The statement ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter’ is malicious, obscene and threatening,” Walsh said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “In no way do the comments embody the fabric of Meridian Township.”
Walsh thanked those who have come forward with additional information during the investigation, which took about two weeks.
“In the end, we did the right thing and I’m proud to say Black Lives Do Matter,” Walsh said.
Firefighter doubled down on comment in post
The township started investigating Schrier, who was a lieutenant, last month after discovering he had made racist comments on social media.
Schrier commented “bldm” on a story from a Washington, D.C., television station about the renaming of a high school.
When questioned, Schrier doubled down, saying “bldm” again and adding “Do I need to clear my throat?” and “I didn’t stutter.”
His final comment: “They don’t.”
Officials heard about the comments late the next night and started an investigation.
They gave an update just days later, saying Schrier needed “an opportunity to be heard.”
“We know everyone desires immediate action,” Walsh said during a webinar update on June 26. “We want the final outcome of this investigation to survive any challenge at the courthouse steps.”Get the News Alerts newsletter in your inbox.
Investigation revealed more issues
Township Human Resources Director Joyce Marx and Fire Chief Mark Hamel interviewed 15 department personnel in four days during the two-week investigation, according to the final report.
Many said they’d never directly heard Schrier make comments about race, but nearly all identified issues with his conduct.
Two said he had asked whether it would be possible to get a demotion after the comments came to light.
Those personnel said Schrier had:
- Made Facebook comments about Muhammad Ali calling him a draft dodger that “may have used the N-word”
- Called the protests and demonstrations in Lansing “riots”
- Generally described the protests and Black Lives Matter movement as “stupid”
- Downplayed issues with the Confederate flag
- Used racial slurs about Hispanic people in a Facebook discussion
- Used offensive language to describe a Sparrow nurse’s son who had a disability
In a pre-disciplinary meeting on July 1, Schrier said he didn’t remember making the comments.
“He did not deny posting them; rather, he relied on his inability to recall,” the final investigative report reads.
He also said he was likely drunk in 2011 when he said in a Facebook exchange that affirmative action breeds racism, citing his difficulty getting a job with a fire department. The exchange has numerous misspellings.
Schrier denied racial bias in that interview, “indicating ‘some of my best friends are African-American; I even dated African-Americans in high school.’”
He did acknowledge that the posts didn’t meet department standards for integrity, didn’t create respect for the department and himself and were not fair and courteous communication.
Schrier also acknowledged the posts have a negative impact on the department and the township as a whole, saying “it makes it look kind of bad.”
Memory lapse claim ‘simply not credible’
Township officials weren’t convinced that Schrier didn’t remember making the posts on June 23.
“His claim of memory lapse or difficulties with recall is simply not credible,” the final report reads.
It cites Schrier’s ability to remember events around when the posts were made and the fact that he was “lucid” and “very communicative” when asking HR a question just hours before.
Officials wrote the investigation revealed “a pattern of commentary about various protected classes and an apparent difficulty with filtering comments on social media or traditional interpersonal communication.”
They add his behavior undermined both himself and his colleagues in the fire department.
“Public service requires equal and fair service to all persons, regardless of race,” the report’s conclusion reads. “His posts do not demonstrate the conduct expected of a member of this Department, let alone one holding the position of Lieutenant.”