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Sociologist believes volunteer firefighter culture could improve policing

Professor/former firefighter says despite fire service racism & sexism they treat the public right

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A Georgia sociology professor says he knows how to improve the image and culture of the nation’s police departments. Roscoe Scarborough urges police officers to be more like firefighters in how they treat the communities they serve. Specifically–volunteer firefighters–like the ones Dr. Scarborough served with in Pennsylvania for six years.

Before you become overly flattered by the suggestions of this assistant professor at the College of Coastal Georgia, you might want to read the entire article published today (Monday) by Milwaukee Independent (the article was first published by The Conversation on September 11). It has what you might view as backhanded compliments for firefighters. Scarborough makes it clear he believes white firefighters are generally racist and sexist. But, he thinks the difference between firefighters and police is that–unlike cops–firefighters are able to hide their racist and sexist natures once the bell rings or siren blows.

According to Scarborough’s curriculum vitae, he’s written and presented extensively on fire service culture and how it relates to masculinity, sex and race.

Here’s an excerpt, but I urge you not to rely solely on my summary and to read Professor Scarborough’s entire column:

Many of the white, working-class male firefighters characterize minorities encountered on recent calls as “Speedy Gonzaleses” or other racist names. During downtime, a favorite pastime is to watch “Family Feud” and shout answers at the television that draw on racial stereotypes, like “watermelon” or “grape drink.” It would be unusual to hear one of the guys condemn a racist, classist or sexist joke.

But when the alarm sounds for a fire in a lower-income or majority-minority subdivision, the same firefighters who vociferously engage in prejudicial banter around the firehouse dash to the engine, demand exceptional firemanship from themselves and their peers, and risk their lives on scene.

The nature of the call, not the demographics of the neighborhood or the race of the victim, shaped the type and speed of the response.

Read entire article

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