A Frankford Volunteer Fire Company employee has been “separated from employment” following the posting by that employee of a video on social media that fire company leaders characterized as “making light” of recent unrest throughout the nation regarding police brutality.
Fire company President Robbie Murray said on Monday, June 15, that the video had been posted on the video platform TikTok during the previous weekend. He said it was brought to his attention both by the person who posted it and by members of the community.
The video was filmed in the Frankford fire house, and the employee was wearing a fire company shirt. Murray said that was a factor in the decision by the fire company.
“I found out about 8:45 p.m. Sunday,” about the video, he said, adding that within a short time, several other fire company members and members of the community had seen it and notified him.
The fire company employee contacted Murray, he said, because the employee was “reading some of the comments [on the TiKTok post] and recognized that this had spiraled out of control.”
Murray said he met the employee at the firehouse to discuss the video, and that within 30 minutes of him seeing the video, the employee had been suspended from their job.
He said he and the other members of the fire company leadership felt “We have to be quick. We have to be decisive,” regarding disciplining the fire company member.
The fire company does not have a social media policy, he said, adding, “We have a standards-of-conduct policy” and that the employee “certainly … fell short of what we expect from our employees and our members in general.”
Murray said that after the video was posted on TikTok, it was posted on Facebook by someone who had seen it on TikTok.
“Once it’s shared, you’ve lost it,” Murray said of efforts to take the video down.
Essentially, the video was a lip-synch version by the fire company employee of a nationally known comedian doing a routine about how to solve the issue of police brutality against black men. The employee was wearing a fire company T-shirt and panned their camera to show a fire truck and firefighting equipment while lip-synching a 25-second piece of a comedy routine about racism.
In the video, the comedian, Daniel Tosh, says that, in order to solve police brutality against black men, “Only black people should be allowed to be cops. Boom. Problem solved.”
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May has sparked protests across the country in recent weeks, including a small, peaceful protest that started in the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company parking lot two weeks ago. Many of the 108 comments on the Facebook post about the video objected to the idea suggested in the video, that the only way to stop white police officers from killing black people is for all police officers to be black.
“Basically, she is mocking the struggle of black people right now by saying they should all just become police officers,” Nichole Collingsworth Briddell of Delmar said in connection with her Facebook post of the TikTok video. Collingsworth-Bridell reposted the video on her Facebook page and “tagged” the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company and the Delmar Fire Company, where the fired Frankford Volunteer Fire Company employee is also a member.
Murray said he was “frustrated” by the posting of the video by the fire company employee.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said, “It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening to think that an organization that prides itself on the relationship we have in the community ends up having one of our members shatter what we’ve spent decades building up.
“We try to embrace the community and really be a focal point. It’s disheartening,” Murray said. “This is not who we are.”
The fire company has hosted numerous community events, including a recent “drive-through” Easter Bunny experience organized after the annual community Easter Egg hunt in the town park was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Facebook post signed by Murray and Frankford Fire Chief John Wright, addressed to fire company members and the community, spoke to the issue.
“On behalf of the officers and members of the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company, we are sorry. We are also sorry that we continue to live in a society where even the thought of making light of such a significant issue seems acceptable,” the post read.
The post also thanked those who brought the video to the fire company’s attention.
“Certainly, you recognized that this was not only wrong, but went against our core mission and values.
“We ask that you reflect on our history and our commitment to doing the right thing, and have faith that we will again do the right thing in this case,” the post read.
Calls to the Delmar fire house to ascertain the person’s membership status with that department were not returned by the Coastal Point’s press deadline this week.