Fire Captain Demoted For Trayvon Martin Facebook Post

Beckmann must also complete a Fit for Duty evaluation and diversity and/or sensitivity training

By Karen Franklin
|  Tuesday, May 15, 2012  |  Updated 9:56 AM EDT
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Miami-Dade Fire Captain Brian Beckmann was demoted over comments made on Facebook concerning the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Miami-Dade Fire Captain Brian Beckmann was demoted over comments made on Facebook concerning the Trayvon Martin shooting.

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Miami-Dade Firefighter Catches Heat for Trayvon Martin Facebook Comments

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Brian Beckmann is under fire for comments made on his Facebook page concerning the Trayvon Martin case. The news comes as Martin's mom, Sybrina Fulton, appears at her Miami Gardens church for a Sunday service.

Protest Over Firefighter's Trayvon Comment

South Florida civil rights leaders protested Wednesday to demand discipline for a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain whose comments made about the Trayvon Martin case on his personal Facebook page set off a firestorm of controversy. John Pace, the executive director of the Federation of Black Employees, said he wants Beckmann fired. "He's a public safety figure, I don't want him coming into my community," Pace said Pace. "I'd rather let my house burn." Capt. Brian Beckmann has defended his comments, writing to the NBCUniversal-owned website thegrio.com, "I am a private citizen and have the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does. I choose not to embellish or alter the facts as your employer chose to do."
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A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain, whose Facebook comment about the Trayvon Martin shooting spurred an investigation, was demoted two ranks to firefighter Monday in a letter from the fire chief.

Brian Beckmann, who posted the comment April 11, must also complete a Fit for Duty evaluation and diversity and/or sensitivity training, the letter from Fire Chief William Bryson said. Beckmann may appeal the decision within 14 days.

Rowan Taylor, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1403 wrote in an email statement that said he disagrees with the demotion.

"As union President, I believe this discipline is excessive. We will immediately file an appeal to an independent arbitrator," Taylor said.

A copy of Beckmann’s initial Facebook post was in the Finding of Fact Report released by the department.

Besides having disparaging words for the prosecutor, the post also said: "I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, (expletive), ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth. They're just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug,” he posted.

A disciplinary report said that the comment altered the reputation of the Fire Rescue department.

“The statement posted cast the subject in a negative light as well as brought ill repute to our entire organization as a result of the reference to 'my co-workers.'"

Beckmann, who said in an interview with the department that he was not the author of the post and rather copied it from what he thought was an editorial reply to a news article or blog, apologized to Bryson in a note.

“I know that my actions have brought you undue scrutiny and you didn’t deserve that,” he said. “I promise I will try harder than ever to be a decent and professional public servant to the citizens of Miami-Dade County, that was always my goal and will continue to be.”

Beckmann also explained why he chose to use the statement.

"I have...from all the years of, all the horrible things I have seen and after a recent couple of events I was reading things that evoked a response in me that made me what to share it and it was not the response they're deeming it to be," he said according to an attachment to the memorandum.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez released a statement Monday that said he agreed with the department’s decision.

“The comments made by Captain Beckmann were reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” Gimenez said. “We can’t have our employees, especially a supervisor, making such disparaging comments about any member of our community, much less one of our own employees."

Gimenez said that he directed his staff to revise policies dealing with the issue.

"It is important to reiterate my position that public servants have a responsibility to uphold the highest levels of integrity and decency, especially when you consider our multicultural, multi-ethnic community. There’s no such thing as being off-the-clock; we are public servants 24/7 and must conduct ourselves with the utmost professionalism at all times," he said in an email statement.

Beckmann, who has worked for the county since 1997, was promoted to lieutenant in 2002 and captain in 2006. He has previously been disciplined twice for reporting late to work and responding to an unauthorized email “sent to be humorous and not county business,” according to his personnel record summary.

Other officers involved in the case were asked to receive counseling for their "lack of official action," the attachment said.


 

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