A city dispatcher has been suspended for five days without pay for uttering a racial epithet over radio transmissions.
The dispatcher, Andrew Nichols, who is an employee of the city's emergency services and telecommunications department, also must attend cultural diversity training upon his return to work, city officials said Thursday. The suspension will begin Friday.
"Based on the findings of the investigation and testimony presented ... [Department Head Andrew] Jaffee found just cause to issue discipline for violation of the city's 'Workplace Violence Policy' and conduct unbecoming an emergency telecommunications dispatcher," city officials wrote in a prepared statement Thursday. "When issuing discipline, the employee's past performance, the city's progressive discipline guide and the seriousness and significance of the incident were considered."
Additionally, all employees of the emergency services and telecommunications department will be required to attend cultural diversity training. The training will extend to other city departments as part of an increased effort to educate workers, ordered by Mayor Pedro Segarra, Jaffee said.
On July 22, Nichols dispatched a unit to the South End to resolve an apparent neighborhood dispute. During the radio dispatch, he can be heard using the racial epithet, then correcting himself. He was initially placed on administrative leave.
It is the second instance of an employee being suspended recently for making a racist remark. On May 7, Hartford police Sgt. Steve Kessler was on duty in the city's North End when he was heard saying on the radio to another police officer, in reference to a group of African American men, "It's like Part 2 of a filming of 'Gorillas in the Mist,'" according to findings by the police department's internal affairs division.
Kessler was suspended for 10 days -- the maximum allowable under the code of conduct -- and transferred from his community service position to the department's detention division.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, has called for the firing of both employees. Segarra said he would approach the unions to negotiate tougher penalties for workers who use racist language.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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