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Another Florida firefighter under investigation for his Facebook page. But this one goes on TV to defend himself.

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For the second time in less than a month we are telling you about a Florida firefighter who is under investigation for comments made on a personal Facebook page. In both cases the postings have offended members of the community.

The first incident involved Miami-Dade Capt. Brian Beckmann who was rather outspoken and labeled a racist by some for his comments about the Trayvon Martin case in mid-April  (click here for initial story). A story on May 1 about a protest against Beckmann says the department is still contemplating whether to take any disciplinary action.

Now comes the story of Hialeah firefighter Eric Johnson who was interviewed by WSVN-TV and declared he is “absolutely not” a racist after some posts on his Facebook page attracted attention. Johnson told the reporter he is married to a Cuban and his best friend is African-American. Johnson is the vice-president of the Hialeah Association of Firefighters.

WSVN-TV:

One of the posts in question is a photo of a man riding a scooter with a  goat and the caption: “Only in Hialeah. LOL.” “Wasn’t that hilarious or what?”  Johnson said when asked about the photo. “I don’t really necessarily see why  people would be offended. It’s a picture. It’s in good humor. You have the  option of coming on my page and looking at it or not.”

In another posting, Johnson wrote about how he communicates with the people of  Hialeah. He says: “I have a system. Just add an ‘o’ to any English word and bam!  It works. For example, how ya doin ‘o.’ You wanna go to the hospital ‘o.’ I just  learned that you can’t do that when you say is this your home though. Ha Ha.”

Then there are Johnson’s postings about Medicare: “Ha Ha Ha… Jew forgot dat  I hab da Medicare… Jew must talk me.”

Johnson also offered an explanation for that comment too. “This is a typical  response we get in the city from a lot of people who have government benefits,”  he said. “It’s almost like you owe them, you are there at their beck and call,  at their service, and mind you, as a public servant, I am, I really am.”

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Comments - Add Yours

  • firefighthero

    Uh oh ‘o, he may be in trouble ‘o, don’t you know ‘o

  • Anonymous

    He should show a little more conpassion toward the GA community (goat americans).

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t post about running a ‘chichen breather” EMS call. What happens is you ask the patien’s family member/friend what is wrong he or she says “ce can’t breath” Yea, I know I probally would not put it on facebook but if the PC police could only walk a mile in my shoes…..

  • waheid

    I am a very strong supporter of First Amendment rights (as well as all the others). Having served 20 yrs in the USN, I often felt the need to zip my lip. While every American has the right to express his/her opinion, members of an established group or community need to exercise care so that others do not mistake one person’s opinion for that of the group. This is especially applicable when the opinion or attitude expressed may not be acceptable to the general public. It seems to me that the fire services has enough problems with a less-than-ideal image because of other bad news that we do not need others to invite negative criticism. I should also note that what is acceptable in the fire station may not be acceptable in the community on which the fire service is so dependent.

  • David

    I agree with waheid but in todays society the fire and ems personell have to deal with a lot of unnecessary crap which they do need or deserve. This has been going for years and its getting worse.

  • David

    I agree with waheid, but in todays society the fire and ems personell have to deal with a lot of crap which they do not need or deserve. A lot of this has been going on for years and its getting worse.

  • RJ(in florida)

    this is one of those situations where the PC police will drive the outcome. i see social media as “free to say” as long as the writer does not violate a law. Restricting freedom of speech because the speech is not popular or the person making the speech is a public offical is BS in mo opinion because with all of the pro USA behavour after 911 was offesnive to muslums but nobody went too far so it was not a problem?

    the guy has a right to express his opinion because facebook has millions of users. whats next, restriction of what you can do off duty? so if you dont like it…dont read it

    (as an example)i’m wondering if ellerbee can regulate off duty firefighters who “type” they are with the DCFD instead of “that other name”. its kind of the same thing

  • http://none Engine 5er

    So that is where Charlie Sheen ended up

  • BFD

    where did your job g”o”

  • Legeros

    So I wonder… are FB postings by public servants such… easy pickings that stories such as these are going to just grow and grow and grow? And thus, will we get to a point where the advice is “don’t post anything you’re not prepared to defend.” ?

    • dave statter

      I think that about sums it up Mike. It is interesting that despite all of the pressure in the Miami-Dade incident there is no resolution and they are still trying to figure out what, if anything, they can do about it.

      While not a lawyer (and I am certainly not giving advice) I often look at a 1970s case in DC where the ACLU defended my friend Kenny Cox a DC firefighter who made remarks to the press critical of the department over staffing issues at a fatal fire. He did so while on duty and in uniform. The courts ruled in favor of Kenny after he fought the disciplinary action. It is often cited in freedom of speech cases in DC.

      So, if a firefighter can do that on the job, what legal recourse does a department have in silencing off the job remarks on someone’s personal Facebook page?

      When all is said and done, I see the following for the future-

      1. A lot more outraged citizens about the off duty writings and rants of those in public safety (or other parts of government).
      2. Chiefs and other administrators left with little they can officially do about it.

      Sure makes things interesting.

      Statter

      • Mike Legeros

        But is there a 3. that will impact delivery of service?

        None of these incidents are going to negate citizens calling 911 when they need help. Not at this stage of the game, at least.

        But they can consume the cycles of administrators, who could direct those energies elsewhere.

  • play4keeps

    Great post, Dave. The Cox case directly affects a current trial board case in the DCFD. How soon do so called “leaders” forget that political correctness and sometimes, whistleblowing, are protected in a free Country and they waste taxpayer money in trying to go after those whose views and humor are not as their own. I think this guy was probably correct in defending himself when confronted on camera. Certain segments of the Country are polarized racially and politically and throw in the economic situation with public safety unions under attack, we all have to be more careful or be prepared to justify what we write.

    • dave statter

      Due to lack of time I haven’t really analyzed and listened to the interview from Florida to judge whether he helped himself or hurt himself. But I generally believe that if you have a defensible position, one that you can solidly justify, you should get out there and defend it (if you are capable of doing so effectively on camera … some who have a good story to tell aren’t very good at doing it).

      If your position is weak and really something you can’t justify, apologize, correct it and try to avoid dragging it on.

  • Duane

    Social Media tends to make us idiots. Stuff we wouldn’t say around the table at lineup seems to be no problem for us to post. Once you put it in writting on the internet you no longer have control over what, how, or when it will be used. I am not saying people don’t have thier right to an opinion but somtimes it’s better to grouse among friends verbally than to post publicly for everyone to see.

  • Really

    Why does a government employee have less freedom of expressing there beliefs? Do we have two constitutions? Government Employees and None Government?

    This is the world today, if I dont like what you say, I can get you on the local news media and get you fired. Now then suppose I find music lyrics offensive, can I call for a ban on any music that promotes drug use or killing police officers? Can I investigate movies that I find offensive?

    The world is taking itself to serious, get over yourself. Facebook is a social media outlet, I dont like CNN so therefore I dont watch it, you can choose to not view this gentlemens facebook page. We have movie and music ratings for this reason, to let you know what to expect in the content. Perhaps we now need to rate people so the PC police can have a great day. For the record Police and Firefighters and EMT’s get crapped upon everyday, the average person could never understand the things people say to us.

    Freedom is no longer free, its rented by the those who dont understand it.

  • Anonymous

    Eric is RIGHT ON!!!! If you drive a few miles past Hollywood, Fl. it can be difficult to find a store where anyone speaks ENGLISH!!! I am First Generation European, my parents had to learn and speak English when they came to America. You can have a PhD. and another person with an Associates Degree can be appling for a job (especially within the local Government Agencies in S. Florida, and the person with the lesser degree who speaks EspanolO will get the position!!! One thing that aggravates me the more than anything is when you are watching the news shows and they MUST pronounce a latin name w/ an latin accent yet if they pronounce any other foreign name these Latino anchors (of which 90% are) have no clue as to how to pronounce a name or word from another ethnicity.

  • Anonymous

    I would not buy a used car from the guy but I don’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He may be lacking some sensitivity but if sensitivity is what the government wants they should demonstrate it to the guy who lacks it too.

  • ERIC JOHNSON

    Ten years ago I chose to serve the residents of the City of Hialeah. Hialeah is my home and its residents are my family. In my time serving the residents of the City, I have done so upholding the highest of professional standards, as evidenced by my personnel record. More importantly, I deliver essential services with an honest, heartfelt concern for those… that call. I don’t count how many lives I have touched or saved in my career, it is my duty to do so, and a duty I truly love. That is who I am. And those that call, have always been grateful, and for that, I am humbled.

    In addition to my duty to provide care, I have also performed my civic duty in our City, specifically holding elected officials to their word. Because of that, I have now become a political target. Worse than that, my integrity as a person, and most importantly, as a father, has been called into question by pictures and comments that are, on their face, clearly tongue-in-cheek. A spectacle has been made of this “investigation”, that serves no purpose other than damaging my reputation. There is no precedent for calling a press conference to announce an “investigation” into a personnel issue dealing with a low level public servant. None.

    Speaking your mind has a price. I understand that now. And comments made in jest, in writing, can be misconstrued. The same goes for some pictures. This is especially true when you point out elements of corruption and incompetence with those in POWER. That being said, I am confident that this “investigation” will conclude that I have provided services to the residents of Hialeah at the highest level. Unfortunately, that will come after another unjustified waste of taxpayers money. Until then, I will do what we firefighters do, help people, as many as we can, as best we can. BTW.. Opposing a socialistic agenda does not make me a racist.. IT MAKES ME AN AMERICAN…

  • Bobcat Big Guns

    Eric,

    Lets go shark fishing off of Mathewson Hammock Park. It would be much safer. Good luck!

    Bob