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Interim Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department Chief John Caussin has urged members of the department who have information about racist comments on the site “Fairfax Underground” to contract investigators. The racist comments are in a thread on the website about the appointment of Fairfax County’s first black public safety chief, John S. Butler. Chief Butler, currently leading the Howard County (MD) Department of Fire and Rescue Services, is scheduled to take his new post in Fairfax County on September 1. Here’s part of Chief Caussin’s message to the department (the entire message is below):
Our Professional Standards Office continues to investigate these posts. Every member of the Department is empowered to forward any information regarding the authors of these posts directly to the Professional Standards Officer. Your confidentiality will be maintained.
The comments began on July 11. The most recent ones occurred yesterday (Thursday), including the one below about a fire last year at a Fairfax County firehouse. The comment with the image says, “The diversity was strong on this day.”
As STATter911.com first told you Tuesday evening, “Fairfax Underground” is the same site that harassed Fairfax County Firefighter Nicole Mittendorff before her 2016 suicide. Investigators say they found no direct connection between the online bullying and Mittendorff’s suicide. At the time, local news extensively covered the posts about Mittendorff and other female firefighters. “Fairfax Underground” also made news in 2015 for its role in a harassment case unrelated to the fire department.
This time the local news media has been slow in deciding the racist comments targeting Chief Butler are newsworthy. Even with a statement from County Executive Bryan Hill Tuesday confirming an investigation is underway (see below) and another comment from Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova yesterday (Thursday), there has been limited news media interest. The exceptions have been Washington Post Columnist Petula Dvorak and WUSA-TV’s Peggy Fox filed a story, who both filed stories yesterday.
— Sharon Bulova (@SharonBulova) August 2, 2018
Statement from Interim Chief John Caussin:
Fire and Rescue Department Colleagues,
Late on Tuesday local blogger Dave Statter informed the County Office of Public Affairs that he would be posting a commentary on the racist remarks recently posted on Fairfax Underground about new Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler. County Executive Hill provided the statement below. This story has, or will be appearing in more local media and on other social media platforms over the next several days. The CEX, DCEX and I have connected with Chief Butler and he is aware of this issue. He agrees the statement represents our common message and will not be commenting at this time.
The County Executive’s statement reflects my values as the Acting Fire Chief as well as our Department’s Core Values. Every man and woman that makes up this great department should be living these same values. Our Professional Standards Office continues to investigate these posts. Every member of the Department is empowered to forward any information regarding the authors of these posts directly to the Professional Standards Officer. Your confidentiality will be maintained.
“Racist, sexist, harassing or retaliatory comments like those on Fairfax Underground are reprehensible. However, those comments do not deter from the mission to protect and serve our great residents. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors supports a zero tolerance approach to this type of conduct within all facets of Fairfax County Government. At this time we don’t know who is responsible for the posts, but an investigation is underway. Any employee found to have participated in posting these comments will be subject to severe disciplinary action. It saddens me that in 2018 our country continues to deal with the hateful actions of a select few.”
Thank you for your continued focus on our mission and moving the FRD forward
Acting Fire Chief
Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department