A St. Louis County Fire Academy recruit, Deontay Johnson, exclusively disclosed to St. Louis media outlet First Alert 4 a troubling narrative of a hostile environment within the academy for aspiring first responders. Johnson expressed concern about potential repercussions for speaking out, citing an atmosphere that seemingly disregards discrimination, racism, and bullying during training.
Reports from both current and former recruits supported Johnson's claims but refrained from speaking on the record, fearing retaliation from leadership. Johnson recounted an incident where a peer made an offensive remark suggesting HIV, indicating the prevalence of inappropriate behavior within the academy.
In October, Johnson formally addressed his concerns via email to his supervisor, outlining instances of inappropriate behavior, including potentially racist or homophobic comments made by other recruits and mockery from a superior during a class. Johnson expressed disappointment in the lack of response or investigation into these incidents.
The year has seen fire departments nationwide deal with racism and discrimination.
Recalling a disturbing incident in February, Andrew Dixon and another Black firefighter found a monkey hanging from the station's ceiling, coinciding with Black History Month in Tampa, Florida. Meanwhile, Jerrod Jones, a member of the Rochester, New York Fire Department since 2008, described being urged to attend the event by his supervisor, Jeffrey Krywy. The lawsuit outlines elements of racism at the party, including offensive displays and discriminatory items. In August, Black Kansas City firefighters alleged that they faced retaliation for discussing racism with the Department of Justice.
We’ll continue to follow this case for further updates.