By Larry Miller
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
A Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic has apologized over the social media posting of a picture where two Black men were pointing pistols at the head of a white police officer, but Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer told the Tribune disciplinary actions might be taken.
The posting, a clip from a music video by rappers Uncle Murda and Maino, titled “Hands Up,” caused an uproar from city officials over what was seen as a slur against police officers. The picture was subsequently removed by the paramedic, Marcell Salters.
Any decision regarding discipline would be made by the fire commissioner after the completion of an investigation ordered by Mayor Michael Nutter.
“I’m still waiting on a report by my special investigations people,” Sawyer said. “But based on preliminary findings I would say yes, some form of disciplinary action would be taken.”
Sawyer personally apologized to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey over the posting, he said.
Salters said on his Facebook page the posting, which appeared earlier this week, was an angry response to the national furor over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown killings and not an insult against police officers.
“I would like to deeply apologize to anyone I have offended,” Salters said. “That post was out of anger [at] what is going on around the world — Mike Brown, Eric Garner and past experiences that I have had with the police. My intention was not to slander or hurt anyone or my brothers in blue. Again I am sorry.”
Nutter called the posting reprehensible and said he condemns it in the strongest possible terms. He said while citizens should always exercise their First Amendment rights, the posting went beyond the standard of decency.
“I condemn the behavior of a paramedic in the Philadelphia Fire Department who used social media to post a reprehensible message and photo that targeted police officers, particularly at a time of emotional volatility and citizen protests in the wake of the tragedies in Ferguson and New York City,” Nutter said. “We celebrate the exercise of our First Amendment right [of] expression, but there are clear limits.
“Inflammatory speech or behavior like this is simply irresponsible and could potentially incite others to inappropriate actions.”
Joe Schulle, president of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 22, said fire fighters and the police work together and assured police officers his people will always assist them whenever needed.
“The members of the Philadelphia Fire Department have historically had a great working relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department,” Schulle said. “We are brothers and sisters in public safety and we often call upon each other for assistance.”