City Manager to investigate "noose" complaint - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City Manager to investigate "noose" complaint

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March 20, 2008

Albany -- Three Albany Fire Department supervisors are relieved of their duties  because of the way they handled a rope that looked like a hangman's noose. The Albany City Manager started an investigation and says he's taking the complaint by a black firefighter seriously.

 A Firefighter at station 4 on West Gordon Avenue complained that a knotted rope hung from a coat hook on the wall resembled a noose. City Manager Alfred Lott said "that someone had displayed a rope in the form of a hangman's noose, which is symbolic of lynchings. Or that's how this person perceived that."

The black firefighter complained that three white Albany Fire Department supervisors laughed and joked about the rope, and then untied it, and later told them not to talk about it. City Manager Alfred Lott has launched what he calls a serious fact finding investigation. 

 The three supervisors have been relieved of duties with pay during the investigation, for using poor judgement in how they handled the incident.  Lott said "did not take appropriate action, with regard to it's discriminatory perception. Or did not investigate it, and trivialized it."

Firefighters tell us that practice ropes for tying knots often hang around the fire stations, and that a knot called the chimney hitch looks like a noose.

 But Lott said supervisors must be sensitive to diversity, to keep racial unrest out of a team where lives are at stake. Lott said "firefighters and firefighting teams have to be a cohesive organization. They have to depend on each other and trust each other. A situation like this could have a negative effect on that."

E-mails we received through open records request show that Fire Chief James Carswell offered to meet with the black firefighter, but the firefighter called in sick, and said he was seeking legal representation.

Chief Carswell also told the supervisors that their actions embarrassed their department and would not be tolerated. City Manager Lott said he expects to have the results of the investigation within two weeks.

If the investigation finds criminal action through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Lott said they would be turned over to proper authorities.

Records show that city leaders considered calling in the F-B-I for consultation.

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