Detroit, MI – A Detroit probationary firefighter has been fired after he brought a watermelon to the station.
Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty said that it was tradition among firehouses to bring a gift as an introduction to fellow firefighters, according to Fox2Detroit.
He said, “It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary. You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”
On September 30, Robert Pattison, age 41, brought a watermelon wrapped with a pink ribbon, to Engine 55, which is 90% black.
Several black firefighters at Engine 55, located at Joy and Southfield, said that they were “instantly offended.”
Patrick Trout, who is a firefighter at Engine 55, said, “When you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into. So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
Fox2 asked Chief McCarty if it “was racially insensitive to bring a watermelon into a fire house”. He replied, “to some people.”
Pattison told Fox2 that he never intended it to be a joke, and that he never meant to offend the firefighters he was supposed to work with.
Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said that Pattison had been “officially discharged.”
He said, “There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.”
“After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.”
Fox 2 asked Chief McCarty if Pattison “should have lost his job over a watermelon?”
Chief McCarty said, “I don’t think so. Between what he did and what was there are a few things that could have been done.”