Mobile firefighters will soon undergo systematic bias awareness and diversity awareness training, after three members of the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department were disciplined for social media comments.
MFRD Chief Mark Sealy made the announcement at a press conference on Friday, a day after the termination of two firefighters and the resignation of a third over violations of the department’s social media policy was made public.
Sealy confirmed reports, but declined to go into specifics about the individual cases. He did say offensive posts in general would not be tolerated because firefighters are expected to help all Mobilians, regardless of their beliefs, or the color of their skin. Those helping their fellow citizens have to do so without bias and without prejudice, he said.
“It’s a very important job,” Sealy said. “We have to have the trust of the public and this department has built on that trust for years. When we have some that choose to erode that, we’re going to take action.”
A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Sealy said he understands the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech and fought for it, but he added those protections prevent the government from jailing folks for speech it doesn’t like, it doesn’t give a firefighter a right to represent MFRD in a negative light.
Sealy also confirmed the department does have a social media policy and firefighters and other employees are required to read the policy. As for the additional training, Sealy said it wouldn’t just be a one-time thing, but something the department would do on a regular basis.
“It’s moving up our priority list,” he said. “It’s going to be prevalent to what we do.”
Sealy also took responsibility for the lack of diversity training to this point in the department.
“That’s on me,” he said. “We will get it corrected going forward.”
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