FAIRFAX, VA (WUSA9) – Fairfax County’s Fire Chief is investigating one of his own captains after complaints surfaced over his comments about bullying to families of new recruits.
WUSA9 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Peggy Fox broke this story on Thursday and has talked to a parent who heard the surprising comments.
The parent confirms what is in a letter written to the fire chief in which the writer says they were “shocked and appalled” at the “callous comments” made by a department head.
The letter is from someone who was at Family Night at the academy on April 21st. While the recruits were in class, Captain William Best spoke to their families about work place behavior.
The writer tells Chief Richard Bowers that the captain said that “some practical jokes go on in the station with the new recruits some might call it hazing, some might call it bullying.” “Millennials have thin skin”, and “boys will be boys.”
The parent said that the captain used “really bad language” that surprised everyone in the room. The parent says another captain quickly stood up and corrected the first speaker telling the families that any kind of bullying is not tolerated.
Chief Bowers said he has “zero tolerance” for bullying and any words or messages that condone bullying or sexually harassment.
The fire department was under intense scrutiny last year after paramedic Nicole Mittendorff committed suicide. She had been bullied on line by people who seemed to be firefighters.
The writer said, “Seems not much has changed in a year…I wonder what the family of the deceased fire fighter would think….The person said they were compelled to let others know what is being spewed to families of fire recruits.”
The parent who spoke to Peggy said the captain who corrected the first, was strong enough to make it clear that bullying is not tolerated. The parent said they’re “confident the Fairfax County Fire Department is a safe place to work” or else their child “would not be in that academy.”
Chief Bowers told WUSA9 he’s in “full investigative mode” to find out what exactly was said, whether it was intentional or “miscommunicated” and then, plans to take corrective action. He said his leaders need to be delivering a clear and correct message.
The Fairfax Fire recruit class consists of 35 people ages 21 to 45, both women and men.
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