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New Haven FD Lt. Suspended After Using N-word In Facebook Comment

Katie Toth

Black firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut are praising their chief’s 15-day suspension of a lieutenant in the city Fire Department.

The New Haven Firebirds are part of an international association of black firefighters. They say that on an anti-immigrant Facebook group, New Haven Fire Department Lieutenant Kevin Owens posted a comment that included the N-word. The Firebirds say Owens is white and they showed a screenshot of his comment to WSHU.

A screenshot of Owens' Facebook comment.

Lieutenant Kendall Richardson is a Black firefighter who’s been with the Department for 7 years. He’s worked under Owens in the past.

"To actually see him or hear him say that…kind of was a big surprise to me. I had a few uncomfortable times working with him but nothing that would be to this level," Richardson said.

New Haven’s fire department has dealt with racial tension in the past. The Firebirds have sued the city at least twice for what they called discriminatory hiring practices. A Firebirds spokesperson said this week’s prompt decision to suspend Owens was a sign that the department was “moving forward.”

In 2009, 20 white firefighters won a U.S. Supreme Court case against the city of New Haven. The city had thrown out the results of a promotion exam when no Black or Latino firefighters scored high enough to get a promotion. The city was forced to reinstate the exam results.

Owens could not be reached for comment. After his suspension, he’ll face the fire commission board, which will decide whether to impose further penalties.

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.