A Miami-Dade County firefighter under investigation by his department for a controversial posting he reportedly made on his personal Facebook page about the Trayvon Martin case has been demoted, Local 10 has learned.
The controversial post read, "I and my co-workers 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."
The post caused a firestorm of controversy. Locally, black civic activists staged protests, demanding that Beckmann be fired. Some called him a racist and questioned his ability to serve the community.
However, there were many people who expressed support for Beckmann's right to free speech.
"I am a private citizen and have the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does," Brian Beckmann toldGrio.com after the posting surfaced in April.
Beckmann's punishment was decided Monday after a month-long investigation. In addition to the demotion by two supervisory ranks to firefighter, Beckmann, a 15-year veteran of the department with an impeccable record, has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and diversity training. He has been on medical leave since last month, when the post surfaced.
Beckmann released a statement, saying, "I promise that 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. My family has suffered tremendously and this has been punishment beyond anything I ever imagine."
Beckmann told Local 10's Roger Lohse that the mayor wanted to fire him, but the chief and the union stood up for him.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez released a statement Monday saying that he supports the decision to demote Beckmann.
"The comments made by Captain Beckmann were reprehensible and will not be tolerated. 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.
The mayor said he has directed staff members to revise the policies connected to the issue.
"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," Gimenez said.
The fire union, which has stood up for Beckmann, is not happy with the decision. IAFF 1403 President Rowan Taylor released a statement saying that "discipline if considered should be supported by facts and should NOT be handed out based on outside pressure. As union President I believe that the facts in this case do not warrant the discipline handed out today."
The union has already filed an appeal and has said it wants the issue to be handled by an independent arbitrator.
The assistant fire chief and the in-house panel that investigated the case recommended to the fire chief that Beckmann be suspended for two weeks, Local 10's Roger Lohse reported.
In the Disciplinary Action Report obtained by Local 10, Fire Chief William Bryson said Beckmann's post "greatly disrupted the public's confidence in the Department" and "may have resulted in the public questioning our ability to deliver service and compromised the public's trust in our organization."
The DAR also detailed Beckmann's response when he voluntarily agreed to answer questions from an assistant fire chief assigned to investigate the matter. When asked if he ever suggested to a coworker that someone should be treated differently because of their ethnicity, gender, religion or social background, Captain Beckmann stated, "We try harder for the disadvantaged. This is who we work for. I work in low income areas."
Beckmann also issued a statement to Bryson, saying, "I want to apologize to you, both as my Chief and as a man who has served this community honorably for more than a single career. I know that my actions have brought you undue scrutiny and you didn't deserve that. I promise that 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. My family has suffered tremendously and this has been punishment beyond anything I ever imagined. Again, my apologies to you and the Miami Dade County Fire Rescue department."
Over the weekend, Beckmann told Local 10 he could not believe that a 15-year career could be destroyed by one Facebook post. He also said he did not even write the post, that it was something that he had copied and pasted from someone else.