WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A white Wichita Fire Department supervisor who texted a photo of himself wearing a sweater featuring a naked Black man has been suspended for three days without pay in one of the harshest penalties yet over racist, homophobic and sexist texts that were shared among the city’s SWAT team members.
Capt. Keith Niemann, who was punished this month, shared the image in a WhatsApp chat with the message, “having a good morning at the firehouse,” The Wichita Eagle reported.
Another white fire supervisor was also disciplined for sending an image showing a naked Black man doctored into a scene from the popular holiday movie “A Christmas Story.” But that supervisor’s identity and punishment haven’t been made public.
Fire Chief Tammy Snow said she is “deeply disappointed” in the two supervisors, who served as medics on the SWAT team. They have returned to work.
Stephanie Yeager, the business manager for the local branch of the union that represents the firefighters, the International Association of Fire Fighters, said Niemann was sorry and didn’t understand the significance of the image.
She said she thinks the city is trying to “make an example” out of Niemann, who was originally given a reprimand, because the police department was criticized for giving light punishments to its implicated officers.
Some of the 10-plus officers caught up in the investigation had fatally shot people and sent messages joking about shooting and beating people. They were given coaching and mentoring.
The only officer put on leave for a few days was one who insulted former chief Gordon Ramsay.
The interim police chief, Lemuel Moore, could give additional punishment to police officers. He has forwarded his recommendations to the city’s legal department.