Fire dept. investigates firefighter's Trayvon comments

Firefighter wrote about case on Facebook

MIAMI - Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials are looking into whether any action can be taken over a firefighter's comments about the Trayvon Martin case.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Brian Beckmann wrote the comments on his Facebook page last Wednesday, the day charges against George Zimmerman, 28, were announced in the death of Martin, 17.

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"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 read.

Sources said the fire chief is not happy over the Facebook comments, but the big question is whether legally the department can do anything about it. There are legal questions about whether the department can punish Beckmann for comments he made while off duty.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has released the county's social media policies, which read, in part: 

"Simply put, Miami-Dade County is not in the business of regulating speech expressed by an employee on his or her own time on matters unrelated to the employee's job functions. No employee, however, may speak on behalf of Miami-Dade County unless authorized by their department director to do so. Does that mean you are not permitted to chime in on subjects you know something about? No. What it means is if you do chime in, whether online or offline, do it on your own time and make it clear that you are speaking from your own point of view about your own experience."

Beckmann did mention his co-workers in the post, but he never said what he does.

"You represent the government when you're on duty, and sometimes when you're not on duty," said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose Pepe Diaz.

Diaz called Beckmann's remarks insensitive but said the department brass are in a tough spot when considering how to deal with an outspoken employee. Diaz said he thinks the captain should be held accountable for his comments but that in this case, the line between free speech and a violation of county policy is very thin.

"When you write in the Internet or when you write on Facebook or anything that you do, you got to understand that this all can be visible by somebody," Diaz said.

A lone protester held a sign outside the department Monday morning, calling for Beckmann to be fired. He said the comments, whether on a personal page or not, are racist and bigoted.

Beckmann has been with the department for more than a decade.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying it continues to investigate the incident.

"Miami-Dade Fire Rescue wants our employees and the Community at large to know that the comments attributed to this employee are the opinion of the individual and does not reflect the feelings of the department as a whole," the statement said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said Beckmann was on sick leave Monday and was due back at work Thursday, pending the investigation.

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