Detroit firefighter says he was punished for reporting racist remark

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A Detroit firefighter reports a colleague’s racist remark to higher ups - but things didn't turn out the way the whistle blower expected. 

The situation is being investigated, but there are a lot of concerns about how it was handled. From the firefighters in the room who pretended they didn't hear the remark but did - to the chief who waited a week to write up his statement about what happened.

"If we make a complaint we should not be punished as if we did something wrong because we spoke up about something that was improper," said retired battalion chief Tracy Thomas.

It appears that is what happened to Eric Anderson, a black Detroit firefighter at Engine 50 on the city's east side.

He and a few co-workers, all white, were watching news coverage of the Bill Cosby rape retrial back in April, when one of the firefighters made a blatantly racist remark about a black woman condemning Cosby.

"He used the words black and n*****," said Thomas. "When he made the statement, the whole room got silent. They wondered how he was going to respond to that. He responded the way I would expect him to and I'm glad he did. (He responded with) 'Oh really' and walking out of the room."

Anderson also reported the firefighter who made the racist remark. The administration removed the firefighter in question from Engine 50 -- but sources tell FOX 2 that Anderson was also shipped out against his will to Engine 40 and upending his family's schedule, causing him to miss out on anticipated overtime pay and vacation time."

"If you have workplace violence on that particular job, workplace violence till it's properly investigated, both members are dispersed from that particular station," Thomas said. "You go somewhere and you go somewhere, so they won't be by each other till they finish investigating. 

"It wasn't workplace violence, he simply made a complaint and he was shipped out as if it was workplace violence."

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones says Anderson requested to leave Engine 50 and take on a new position downtown. But Thomas and other sources familiar with the situation say that only happened after Anderson was removed from Engine 50 and after a new opportunity opened up with the Apparatus Division in Eastern Market.

"Is there a whistleblower policy," said Jyarland Daniels. "And a whistleblower policy is something every organization, every corporation, every institution, should have in place, such that when someone makes a complaint they are not retaliated against."

FOX 2 talked with Daniels, a racial equity consultant and founder of Harriet Speaks. She says organizations have to protect people who speak up about racism while providing due process and not discarding those accused of it.

"There has to be some type of reconciliation and mediation process to deal with these things," she said. "If we continue the habit of every time there is an instance removing someone or firing them, all we are going to do, is push these things under the surface."

FOX 2 reached out to the fire union and it released a statement:

"The Union continues to monitor the administration's investigation and/or process of mitigating this matter. Our DFFA members are proud of and embrace the diversity shared fraternally on America's busiest Fire/EMS department."