One Detroit firefighter is out of a job after he decided to give a gift of a giant watermelon, all topped with a pink bow, as he introduced himself to who would have been his new colleagues at Engine 55.
However, according to WJBK-TV, the gift did not go down well at the fire station, where about 90 percent of the employees are black.
Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty explained to the news station that it was a tradition for incoming firefighters to bring a little something for their fellow firefighters, although doing so is not mandatory.
“It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary,” he said. “You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”
However, when 41-year-old Robert Pattison brought in the watermelon, some of the African-American firefighters were instantly offended, according to the report.
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse, you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into,” Patrick Trout, a firefighter at the station, said. “So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
Pattison told the news station that his gift was not meant to be a joke and that he did not mean to offend his fellow firefighters. Nonetheless, Fire Commissioner Eric Jones thought it best to dismiss the probationary firefighter.
“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,” Jones said in a statement. “After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.”
However, McCarty is sympathetic to Pattison’s situation, voicing the opinion that he didn’t think termination should have been the first resort.
“Between what he did and what was, there are a few things that could have been done,” he said.
Read more at Fox2Detroit.