Apology in HFD Noose Incident

FiresRacismDisasters and AccidentsSocial IssuesMinority GroupsNAACPCofield

A handshake Monday at the Houston Fire Department that may not have been possible six months ago. It was between Pastor D.Z. Cofield, Vice President of the Houston NAACP and Captain Keith Smith of fire station 41, the same captain found with a hangman's style knot in his locker back in February.

Now after an NAACP investigation, the incident appears to be a misunderstanding according to Cofield.

"Some may be surprised that the NAACP would come out in this fashion and stand with Captain Smith," he said, "but for us it is not an issue of black or white. It is an issue of wrong or right. We believe that Captain Smith was unfairly treated."

Smith says the rope in his locker had been there since the beginning of his career. He called it a learning tool to help practice tying knots from his days in he fire academy. Earlier this year, an African American firefighter saw the rope and complained. That led to a series of incidents highlighting racial unrest within HFD.

Capt. Smith said he "...was not aware that this was considered a racial symbol," and "I would like to apologize for the outcome that this has caused for the citizens of Houston and all the men and women of the Houston Fire Department."

Not everyone is accepting Smith's version of events. African American protestors are still calling for Smith to be fired. Otis Jordan with the Houston Black Fire Fighters Association is not impressed.

"The story should have been the same story I heard six months ago, that was not the same story I heard today."

This does not stop other issues within HFD. A public meeting at city hall discussed the two female firefighters at station 54 and offensive graffiti found on their lockers. Also on the agenda, a cadet who was allowed to reapply to the department a year after resigning over another "rope" incident.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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