A Providence firefighter has been terminated after telling an elderly Black woman who requested medical attention earlier this year she should “stop eating fried chicken,” reported WPRI.
Andre Ferro — who previously faced disciplinary action for violating the department’s sexual harassment policy — was fired by the city’s Fire Department Trial Board Tuesday for the racially insensitive comment, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.
“After considering his previous disciplinary history, Ferro’s conduct of March 15, 2017, and the context in which it arose and the potential damage to the reputation of the Providence Fire Department as a result of firefighter Ferro’s conduct, the board finds the only appropriate penalty to be imposed is termination,” the board wrote in its 2-1 decision.
According to the board’s decision, Ferro responded to the March medical call to help a woman suffering from a “nosebleed that would not stop.” While other responding firefighters attempted to stop the unidentified woman’s nosebleed, Ferro allegedly told the woman’s daughter her mom “should stop eating fried chicken.”
Based on the review performed by the board, there was “no fried food or fried food smell” in the apartment, according to the decision.
Ferro told Commissioner Pare he did make a comment about fried chicken. However, he said “he made the comment in the context of other types of foods to avoid such as cheese, bacon and burritos,” the decision states.
Several witnesses testified that they considered Ferro’s remark racist. James Vincent, the president of the local branch of the NAACP, told the board he considered the comment racially insensitive.
During the trial for the former firefighter, Ferro’s wife, who is African-American, testified that she had never heard her husband make racially motivated comments.
Ferro and the firefighters’ union argued for him to receive “cultural sensitivity training,” but the board said it placed “significant weight” on Ferro’s previous misconduct.
In 2008, Ferro was fired for violating the department’s sexual harassment policy, but was “reinstated as a result of an arbitration award and a last chance agreement,” according to the board. Ferro served a one-year suspension and was required to undergo sexual harassment training.
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