Capt. Keith Niemann, a white supervisor at Wichita Fire Department, was suspended without pay for three days after he shared a photo wearing a sweater featuring cartoon version of a naked Black man. The cartoon featured Wardy "Wood" Joubert, whose meme went viral during the pandemic.
Action was also taken against another fire supervisor for sending an inappropriate image featuring a naked Black man photoshopped into a scene from the holiday movie, A Christmas Story.
Images Were Shared on WhatsApp Chat
According to The Wichita Eagle, Niemann shared the racist image in a WhatsApp chat at the firehouse. The message accompanying the image read, "Having a good morning at the firehouse."
The controversial image featured the supervisor wearing a sweater with the image of a naked black man sitting on the edge of a bed. The quote on the sweater read, "I have a big package for you." A Christmas gift was strategically placed on the black man's genitals, according to the outlet. Niemann is seen sipping coffee from a mug in the image.
The other supervisor, whose identity was not revealed by the authorities, sent a controversial image to two persons. The photoshopped image featured the character Flick, from A Christmas Story, sticking his tongue to a pole, with the pole replaced by a Black man's genital. The character Ralphie is shown on the other side of the pole staring at the vulgar scene.
Niemann Didn't Understand the Significance of the Controversial Image
Speaking to the outlet, Stephanie Yeager, the business manager for the local branch of the union that represents the firefighters, the International Association of Fire Fighters, said that the Niemann was sorry for what he did and didn't understand the significance of the mug and sweater.
Yeager also revealed that the erring supervisor was given the unpaid suspension following a reprimand on May 19. She also claimed that the department was trying to "make an example" out of Niemann after the police department was criticised for giving light punishments to its implicated officers.
She was referring to the previous incidents wherein Wichita Police Department officers exchanged several racist, sexist and homophobic texts and images from 2015 to 2021. The department was accused of failing to take appropriate disciplinary action against the officers and were instead given coaching and mentoring.
NBC News reported that Fire Chief Tammy Snow said she is "deeply disappointed" in the supervisors, who served as medics on the SWAT team.