The D.C. Fire and EMS Department has had to face conflicts with racial undertones for many years. The latest incident took place after about 100 firefighters walked out during Chief Kenneth Ellerbe’s State of the Department address on Jan. 24. The firefighters, most of whom, but not all, were white, and they were protesting a policy to switch from 24 to 12-hour shifts. In response to the walkout, department spokesman Lon Walls wrote on his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts that he “just witnessed a blatant display of racism and disrespect shown to an African American leader,” and the walkout was ” the most blatant, ignorant and racist public display of disrespect I have ever seen,” The Washington Times reports. Walls has since been placed on administrative leave.
During an appearance on The Kojo Nnamdi show last week, Chief Kenneth Ellerbe answered questions on the role race has played in recent conflicts. He told Kojo, “We never want to interject race in an area or environment where you already have perceived challenges or even hostilities.” Hear more in the video below: