Firefighter Fired Over Facebook Post of Virtual Firefighter Video

HATZEL VELA
WCSC 5
Reprinted with Permission

COLLETON COUNTY, SC - A Colleton County paramedic and firefighter was fired over a video he posted on Facebook.

On February 11, Jason Brown was called into the director's office and questioned about the video he posted the previous night.

The Facebook post takes you to a YouTube-like site, where a video almost three minutes in length shows an exchange between two cartoon characters at a hospital.

One is a doctor, the other a paramedic.

In a letter of dismissal Brown provided, Colleton County Fire-Rescue Director Barry McRoy said, "You [Brown] displayed poor judgment in producing a derogatory video depicting a member of this department with a physician which is implied to be at Colleton Medical Center."

"There was no malicious attack to anybody involved personally or countywide or any certain department ever," said Brown, who spent two hours making what he described as a text-to-movie video.

On the web site xtranormal.com, you can create characters and even make them look like you. Users can type in a script and the cartoon-like character will say what you write.

"I'm not trying to make any doctor or any nurse look stupid," Brown said.

He said he wasn't even talking about Colleton Medical. He only used the name of a doctor who works at that hospital because he had recently seen him at a party.

It was supposed to be a funny, exaggerated and an almost unbelievable story of real life on-the-job experiences, Brown said.

"It's just general things that go on in the day-to-day business of us running calls within any fire department, any EMS," he added.

The dismissal letter also said, "This video has created an embarrassing situation for this department, our public image and the cooperative relationship we enjoy with Colleton Medical Center. It reflects poorly on you and Colleton County."

Brown appealed the decision, but his appeal was denied.

[See the rejection of appeal letter (pdf).]

Brown never meant any harm, he said.

"If I knew it was going to give me this much headache, I never would have made it in the first place," he added.

Brown said he was told his video was racist because the cartoon character playing the doctor role was African-American and during one of the exchanges the character said, "I don't want to lose my job and go back to being a janitor."

"That was never, ever in my actions or even thoughts when I made the video," Brown said.

When making the video, a black doctor was the only option offered, he added.

Getting fired was a little overboard, he said.

McRoy wouldn't give details about the Brown's firing because he said he couldn't discuss personnel matters.

But he said the Facebook incident wasn't the only reason Brown was fired.

Brown said he has never been seriously reprimanded and points to the dismissal letter as proof the Facebook post was the only reason he was fired.

If asked to take down the post, he would have done it and that would have been the end, he said.

Brown said after he was fired, he was escorted to the station where he returned all his gear, while two officers supervised him.

"I felt like a criminal," he said.

Prior to working at Colleton County Fire-Rescue for three and a half years, he worked at Berkeley County EMS and Goose Creek City Fire.

He said he left those two places because Colleton County paid more.

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I've never said anything other than this is a civil matter.

The department under discussion isn't a "larger suburban or urban department", so those department's policies are not pertinent here...only Colleton County's policies are pertinent.

There is no political correctness issue here, and there isn't a public perception issue. The issue is the professional relationship between CCFR and a local physician to whom they transport patients.

What your chief told you about something completey different isn't the issue here, either. I'm not naive, I know the chief in question, and I wouldn't classify him as an "egomaniac" or anything like it.

"Lemons to lemondade seminar"??? What are you talking about??? Apparently, whatever that is, it has no bearing on the situation under discussion, either.
What specific doctor? The only named used was as a reference to someone who would discipline the "offending doctor" character, who is nameless.

This was obviously a work of fiction, and was a parody. Who exactly was "targeted?" It could be any one of "Dr. Ward's" subordinate doctors, a conglomerate of all his subordinate doctors, or none of them. FF Brown has worked in other district and the "offending Doctor" character could be based on doctors he's had interactions with in Berkeley County or Charleston County. Unless you can pin a specific name on the "offending doctor" character, there is no slander.

I'm sure we have all learned to include the following caveat on any works of fiction we create: "this is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or places is purely coincidental" for those who cannot tell that it is a work of fiction.

I think you are too close to the case to make an objective observation. Take a mental step or two back and re-assess the situation.


Greenman
http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6199263/
I still haven't heard anything slanderous in connection with the use of the name Dr. Ward. How exactly was Dr. Ward slandered? I'm just curious. Maybe I'm missing something...
When the person that created the video, by his own admission, used a specific doctor's name, that pretty well rules out the video being about a generic group or anyone else.

What this tells me is that when you create something that makes fun of a person or a group, you need to think about the perceptions of everyone who sees what you create, not just the perceptions of people who think just exactly like you do.

Regardless of how close to the case you think I am, neither your opinion or mine will have any effect on how Colleton County enforces their "harmonious relationships" policy.
Nope, it sure won't but if one of your Firefighters created this video, how would you have handled it?

You keep focusing on the one name used. Nothing derogatory was said about that person. The character being parodied was the doctor character in the video.

If he had called the supervising doctor, " Dr. Smith" would you still think this was slanderous? or would it then be okay because that one name was changed?

Greenman
http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6199263/
It's going to be tough for anyone to show how anyone has a right to ridicule if it is done in a way that identifies the person as a member of a fire department. That takes this out of the realm of individual free speech and into the competing rights of both the employer and the physician whose name was used, by the video creator's own admission.

The intent of the employer is pretty clear here - it is to maintain "harmonious relationships" with the public, which includes their local hospital and the people who work there.

It's a very, very long stretch to try to make this a criminal matter.
It's also a very long stretch to make enforcing department rules into a conspiracy.
Me too Joe. I am still waiting on Ben's response to Greenman's last question. For some reason ppl keep focusing on the dr. when in fact the video was intended to poke at the outrageous FF. Who in the heck would do such a thing.
The medium through which an opinion is expressed is irrelevant. You can write and post it here, or you can make a video story, or you can sing it in a song, it's all the same.

What happens if you post an opinion which you believe is clearly not a violation of your department's policies, but your supervisor decides otherwise and terminates your employment because you posted your opinion on Firefighter Nation?

The medium of the opinion doesn't matter; you can be terminated anytime your supervisor decides you violated the department or city or county media policy.

Would your your opinion change if FF Brown had written a letter to the editor of the local paper saying he thinks some of the ED Doctors he has worked with as a paramedic take a casual attitude toward the treatment of certain patients?

Either form of media is protected speech.


Greenman
http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6199263/
Once again, WHO WAS RIDICULED?

So far you have not said even once who was ridiculed in the video. You insist it is slanderous, but you haven't said who was slandered.

FF Brown has a right to list where he works on his Facebook profile, He has a right to expressed his opinion while off-duty and off-premises, he never identified the hospital, or the "person" being ridiculed, he used a name he pulled out of his mind which happend to be a name he recently heard at a party (not at the Hospital, mind you).

Greenman
http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6199263/
almost like as if some other ff's were arrested on cdv and stil working there or even dui's. HMMMMMMM
I wonder how many ways we can keep going around and around, no matter how we rephrase it, and keep arguing the same topic????
Lutan,

There's always one more way. :-)

Greenman

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