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SBFD receives complaint detailing harassment and discrimination

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - “You have failed us.”

That is the solitary sentiment expressed on behalf of one dozen female members of the South Bend Fire Department, in a letter that references sexual harassment and discrimination.

A letter was sent to the mayor and the city board of public safety. It is dated March 8, 2021. The letter alleges that an egregious act occurred without proper discipline.

The letter calls attention to an incident that apparently occurred at Station 8 on Twyckenham Drive last December.

It states an un-named “captain not only demeaned, harassed, and blocked a female firefighter’s escape while verbally harassing her, but that he also battered her by striking her on the head.”

The letter goes on to state, “his only punishment was 24 hours of unpaid leave” for what was said to be a third offense—the same discipline commonly doled out when a firefighter is late to work.

“It doesn’t seem like the crime, the punishment fits the crime,” South Bend Second District Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. told 16 News Now. “So we, and I’m asking for a full scope investigation of the board of public safety.”

Councilman Davis says the incident doesn’t fit with the city’s commitment to inclusion at a time when the majority of the city council members are women.

The letter states that women first joined the South Bend Fire Department in 1997. In the 24 years that have since passed, only 12 have made the grade.

On their behalf, the letter states: “We come to work expecting a workplace free of harassment and violence, yet when it occurs, it is treated as a slap on the wrist.”

Mayor James Mueller issued a written statement that reads:

“The recent letter from the women of our fire service makes it clear that we have not always lived up to our values in the past and must do better,” said Mayor James Mueller. “I have the utmost confidence in Chief Buchanon and the Board of Public Safety to address these concerns and ensure our fire service provides an inclusive workplace free of harassment moving forward.”

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