A Brookhaven Fire Department truck with a Confederate flag on it was spotted in Patchogue over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Will Ferraro

New York State and Suffolk County authorities are investigating the Brookhaven Fire Department after a Confederate flag was spotted draped on the side of one of its fire trucks over the weekend.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called for the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission to probe the incident and Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Division of Human Rights to also investigate.

“The incident involving an individual displaying a confederate flag from a fire truck in our county warrants further review,” Bellone said. “The public also must have confidence that any review of this matter is handled independently to ensure for a fair and impartial outcome … Hate and bigotry have no place in Suffolk County and we must demonstrate that we take these matters seriously.”

The Confederate flag was flown by breakaway Southern states that advocated for the continuation of slavery and lost the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War. Flying the flag can be offensive to many Americans, who see it as a reminder of the enslavement of Black Americans and as a symbol of white supremacy.

“I’m appalled by reports that a Confederate flag was flown on a Brookhaven Fire Department truck at a Patchogue parade,” Cuomo said. “We have zero tolerance for symbols of racism or division.”

Peter Di Pinto Jr, the chief of the Brookhaven Fire Department, issued an apology Sunday after images of the flag on a fire truck began circulating on social media. He blamed a lone, unnamed firefighter who was said to have acted alone.

“The unauthorized action was done without the knowledge of our leadership team and is condemned in the strongest of terms,” Di Pinto said. “The strength of our community has always come from its diversity and our department has always sought to be inclusive. We can assure our community that racism has no home in our firehouse.”

Elaine Gross, president of the Syosset-based nonprofit ERASE Racism, questioned Di Pinto’s statement calling the incident a personnel matter and urged the department to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“The displaying of a Confederate flag on a public vehicle purchased by taxpayers and
operated at their expense at a public event is not a personnel matter,” she said. “It is an outrageous act of racism … The department needs to announce publicly what steps it is
taking to cure the culture that permitted this reprehensible act.”

This is disgraceful and blatantly racist, and has no place in our communities Brookhaven Fire Department. (You do…

Posted by Will Ferraro on Sunday, August 30, 2020

-With Reuters

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