By Todd Quinones
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some city officials are upset over a photo posted to Instagram by a West Philadelphia paramedic, showing two black men pointing a gun at a police officer and describing police as “the enemy.”
The post, which has people upset within the Philadelphia Police Department, states “Our real enemy… need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that’s legally killing innocents.”
Thursday night, fire commissioner Derrick Sawyer said he personally apologized to police commissioner Charles Ramsey and the head of the FOP John McNesby:
“I thought it was disgusting. I think that we have a great working relationship with the police in our city and I think we want to keep that and a lot of our members have family members that are police officers also, so it was in poor taste.”
The paramedic works at Medic 23 in West Philadelphia — which just so happens to share a building with the 19th Police District.
Outrage over the posting reached City Hall with Mayor Michael Nutter releasing the following statement:
“In the strongest possible terms, 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 our nation in the wake of tragedies in Ferguson and New York City.
“We Philadelphians expect our public servants to uphold the highest standards of behavior as they conduct the city’s business. City employees must always be mindful, whether on or off duty, that their behavior should not negatively reflect on our City or raise questions that may diminish citizen confidence because a city employee might be unable to carry out their duties as a result of his or her actions, expressions or behavior either directly or on social media.
“We celebrate the exercise of our First Amendment right to expression, but there are clear limits, and this posting went far beyond standards of decency. Inflammatory speech or behavior like this is simply irresponsible and could potentially incite others to inappropriate actions.
“When this matter came to our attention yesterday, we asked Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer to undertake a thorough investigation and invoke whatever discipline is warranted in this circumstance. Any decision regarding discipline will be made by the Fire Commissioner after the completion of this investigation.
“I’m asking that all of us be particularly mindful of our actions and expressions regarding matters of public safety and our first responders. We need to respect them all, and they must respect our citizens as well.”
The still picture posted is taken from a music video called “Hands Up” by two Brooklyn rappers voicing their frustrations over the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The head of the Firefighters and Paramedics Union Joe Schulle also issued a statement in support of police:
“The members of the IAFF Local 22 proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in blue. The brave Police Officers in our city put their lives at risk everyday in an effort to keep the citizens of Philadelphia safe. The members of the Philadelphia Fire Department have historically had a great working relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department. We are brothers and sisters in public safety and we often call upon each other for assistance. I have had several occasions throughout my career in which the Philadelphia Police came to my aid. Many firefighters and paramedics can tell similar stories in which the police responded quickly and diffused potentially volatile situations to keep the men and women of the Fire Department safe. Not only do we work together in the street, but I count many police officers as good friends, as well as family. Again, most of the members of the Philadelphia Fire Department would most certainly echo these sentiments. During this difficult time, I want to assure the members of the Philadelphia Police Department that we are here to support and assist you whenever you may need.”
Schulle added on Friday: ”The issue of the paramedic is in the hands of the administration. The union strongly disagrees with the tone and message of his inflammatory Twitter post. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in blue.”
The paramedic has since taken the photo down and responded on Facebook saying that he deeply apologizes and that he did not mean to hurt his brothers in blue or offend anyone.
It is not known at this time if the paramedic will be disciplined.
Jan Carabeo and Dan Wing also contributed to this story.
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