ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Firefighter Jerrod Jones talked publicly Thursday about his intention to sue the City of Rochester and the Rochester Fire Department claiming they discriminated against him because of his race.
Jones, a Black man and 14-year veteran of RFD, says on July 7 Captain Jeffrey Krywy forced him and two other subordinates to accompany him to a private party during their shift.
Upon arrival, Jones says he noticed a large cutout of former President Donald Trump along with two large Juneteenth celebration flags propped up on the lawn not far from buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.
Jones adds there was a woman in a red wig calling herself Rachel and he claims she was impersonating Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart while party attendees shouted crude comments in her direction.
In addition, Jones says he saw photos of other Democratic politicians and Rochester Police Accountability Board members on stakes planted throughout the backyard.
At one point Jones says he saw Krywy receive a party favor bag that contained a bottle of cognac and a Juneteenth commemorative cup.
Jones believes he spotted a senior member of the Rochester Police Department at the party.
In response, RPD released a statement saying an internal investigation is underway adding, “if any members are found to have been involved in these vile allegations, appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken.”
Jones says he alerted RFD leadership the next day, but was still placed with Krywy for his next shift.
“Jerrod tried every other thing he could to resolve this and was not given an adequate response,” said his attorney Nate McMurray, as Jones and a group of friends, family, colleagues and a few local lawmakers stood before Rochester City Hall.
News 8 has contacted the Rochester Fire Department and the union that represents Rochester firefighters — IAFF Local 1071 — for comment, but we has yet to hear back.
Attempts to reach Krywy have been unsuccessful.
The firefighters union released a statement Thursday, saying, “The Rochester Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1071 finds today’s allegations regarding events during the incident of July 7th extremely disturbing. Our union has zero tolerance for racist attitudes and behaviors, either on or off our jobs. We will await the findings and details of a full investigation of this matter, before making further comments or taking responsive actions.”
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says the investigation into the matter has concluded and the fire chief will be making a determination on the case soon.
He added, “I’m pretty distressed today about this … I will tell you that I’m not happy about what I’ve heard so far.”
Krywy has been suspended with pay while Jones is on leave and, according to the Notice of Claim, is “suffering emotional distress and fear of retaliation from Krywy and others.”
Jones talked Thursday about how difficult it was to go public about an incident that involves the RFD, a department he says he loves with everything in him, but added he felt it was necessary.
“I have two children that maybe one day will be inspired to be firefighters and I don’t want them to have to experience what I experienced. I wouldn’t want your kids to experience that,” Jones said.
Statement from the Rochester Firefighters Association
“The Rochester Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1071 finds today’s allegations regarding events during the incident of July 7th extremely disturbing. Our union has zero tolerance for racist attitudes and behaviors, either on or off our jobs. We will await the findings and details of a full investigation of this matter, before making further comments or taking responsive actions.”
Statement from Rochester Mayor Malik Evans
Today I spent a significant amount of my time addressing a personnel issue related to an event that played to ugly racist stereotypes targeted at the African American Community. My thoughts have been with the employee who was brought to that event by a supervisor.
I did not witness the blatant racism, misogyny, and hate, but the description captured in our internal investigation leaves me deeply troubled. And the more I think about the incident, the more I recognize that it has impacted the larger community as well.
This is not only a concern for the Rochester Fire Department. This is a concern for all of Rochester. That an event like this was held and attended by influential community members – in 2022 – is mind-boggling. Our community must be better than this.
I call for my fellow Rochesterians to push back against hurtful racism and stereotypes that degrade members of our community. Join me in ensuring behavior like this is not tolerated in our city. Events like this remind us that there is much work to do to overcome racism in our society.
Statement from Rochester City Councilmember Stanley Martin
“I unequivocally stand with Firefighter Jerrod Jones and the Black and brown members of the Rochester Fire Department who put their jobs and safety on the line to speak out against systemic racism and white supremacy within the Department. Speaking out against a system that rewards silence and secrecy comes at a great risk. I applaud the courage of Mr. Jones and every single firefighter who stepped up to say enough is enough.”
“I join the family of Jerrod Jones and his colleagues in calling for an independent investigation into the very serious allegations stemming from the vile Juneteenth party and ongoing acts of racism within the department. The investigation must also look into the presence of RPD Officers at the Juneteenth event and the claims of subsequent pressure from elected officials intended to silence Mr. Jones.”
“Black and brown firefighters who dedicate their lives to protecting our community deserve to work in an environment that protects them and treats them with dignity and respect. I’m committed to working collaboratively with current and former firefighters to change the culture of the department and create one grounded in equity, safety, and integrity.”