A fire company within Swatara Township, Pennsylvania, has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation relating to racial harassment, lack of trained staff, and other issues.
The Lawnton Fire Company was taken out of service within Swatara on May 31. The discovery of racial slurs being used by members of the company against one of their own was the primary motivator behind the suspension, although other problems were noted as well.
The verbal harassment was apparently so bad that it prompted one of the staff to leave the company in November of last year, joining a separate fire company instead. Township Manager Jim Fosselman said that alone was enough to warrant action.
“The things that were taking place, from what I'm told — that's not tolerable,” Fosselman said.
More problems existed within the company. There was an issue of a lack of trained staff, for instance, that was alarming. The number of staff the fire company had was also disturbing — at the time of the suspension, the company only had 10 active members.
Lawnton Fire Company also reportedly missed many calls that were made to them.
“Swatara Township cannot tolerate improper or illegal conduct by any of the members of the volunteer fire companies that serve the township,” Director of Fire Services Mike Ibberson said, adding that the suspension was a “reasonable response” in this instance.
While other townships may not take action against individuals in their municipality’s service departments who conduct themselves in improper ways, Swatara took the right steps in suspending the Lawnton Fire Company.
The members of the company were clearly incompetent to do the job that was asked of them. But beyond that, the racist actions of some of its members is simply intolerable, and this aspect alone warranted the township removing them from duty.
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