Suffolk County

Photo of Long Island Town Firetruck Displaying Confederate Flag Sparks Investigation

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A confederate flag displayed on a Long Island's town firetruck has sparked outrage among residents as well as an investigation.

Brookhaven Fire Department Chief apologized in a statement on Sunday after a photo of the department's fire engine with the symbol of Confederacy hanging on its side surfaced on social media.

"The unauthorized action was done without the knowledge of our leadership team and is condemned in the strongest of terms," said Chief of Department Peter Di Pinto Jr. "We can assure our community that 'Racism has no home in our Firehouse.'"

Di Pinto added that the incident involved a sole firefighter who acted alone in erecting the flag during the non-response event, which was a drive-by honoring a former fire chief now battling cancer. Both the fire department and the town board say they are investigating the matter and no other details were released.

In a statement, Brookhaven councilman Michael Loguercio said the town board "condemns the display of this symbol of racism and hatred in the strongest possible terms."

Loguercio added that there's no affiliation between the local government and the local fire department despite the same name.

"It is our hope that those responsible for this hurtful display will be found, identified and be held accountable for their actions," Loguercio said.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri Jr. said he attended the event for the ailing former fire chief, and said that "the foolish actions of one really taints that department in a way it shouldn't be tainted." He also said he didn't think there was racist intent in the photo, saying the person responsible may have been trying to celebrate a department drill team nicknamed the rebels — a move he said was tone deaf that it is "hurting all."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he was "disturbed and angered" by the incident.

"While one incident or individual is not reflective of an entire Fire Department, it is a reminder that we still have more work to do to eradicate hate and bigotry on Long Island," Bellone said in a series of tweets of Sunday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo got involved on Monday, saying that he was "appalled" by the actions, and that he was directing the state's Division of Human Rights to investigate.

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE BROOKHAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT:

Posted by Brookhaven Fire Department on Sunday, August 30, 2020
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