Judge accuses FDNY of culture of racism in wake of heckling of AG Letitia James

 April 3, 2024

Recently, members of the New York Fire Department made headlines after heckling and booing New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

At the same time, the firefighters reportedly began chanting in favor of former President Donald Trump, which, of course, led to discussions of "racism" within the ranks of the FDNY.

According to Fox News, Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis alleged that the situation involving James was not about politics, and "has to do with race."

The incident had taken place in March "during a promotion ceremony at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn."

What did he say?

Vulcan Society of Black firefighters’ President Regina Wilson had complained to the Brooklyn judge about the incident during a recent status hearing.

"I don’t know if you had an opportunity to just see the vile nature of these members even when we were at Christian Cultural Center where they started booing and saying ‘Trump, Trump Trump,’ while Letitia James was at the podium," Wilson said.

"This behavior is who this department is. Not all of them, but a large portion of them. So when Black people go to work and have to deal with this and you don’t get any help or support really from the department, it’s horrific."

Garaufis made it clear that he believes racism is rampant within the FDNY, and ordered the organization's lawyers to start holding hearings.

"Get the EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] office straightened out. Take some of your brilliant lawyers from the Corporation Counsel and put them in there and start holding hearings. That’s not a request, that’s a direction," the judge said.

Without proof, he added, "I’ve lived in New York City all my life. I know what the problem is. And believe me, front and center is what happened the other day. This doesn’t have to do with politics, this has to do with race."

EEO case backlog

In recent years, complaints have emerged regarding the lack of lawyers on the Equal Employment Opportunity office, which currently has a long backlog of cases.

The judge issued another order regarding the backlog.

"You have 900 lawyers sitting doing other things in the Corporation Counsel’s office and lawyers all over the city government. Put them on detail, they already work for you, and do it. One hundred eighty days is not acceptable," Garaufis said. "And I want the commissioner here at the next meeting."

Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci responded to the statement, saying, "The FDNY takes every EEO complaint seriously, diligently investigates each complaint, and is committed to addressing the complaint backlog."

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