Sexual Discrimination Complaint Filed Against Fire Chief



Complaint filed against SAFD Chief Douglas Berry for sexual discrimination
SAFD Chief Douglas Berry photo by KSAT

SAFD Has Long History of Misogyny

(TX) – People tend to only hear about firefighters when they are fighting a fire. The rest of the time we hardly think about them. Because of that, firefighters are always thought of as heroes. The truth is, fire depatments are the most openly misogynistic city agency there are.

The current story is about the San Antonio Fire Department, but I suspect that fire departments in other cities are the same, because the way they are thought of by the public is the same everywhere. Many years ago, due to my dealings with a third party, I would periodically come in contact with firefighters and can tell you from personal knowledge that the hateful and degrading way they would speak about women was not a one time thing. They did it all the time and were very open about it. Nothing has changed in all these years.

Someone at the SAFD has found it necessary to release a complaint to the media because that person knows nothing of any consequence will be done until a spotlight is directed on the problem. The complaint by a female firefighter is against both District Chief Douglas Berry and Captain Raul Lopez and accuses “Captain Raul Lopez of gender and sexual orientation discrimination and stated that Berry ‘displayed disrespectful and degrading behavior toward women.'” 

Chief Wanted New Hires to Have Big Breasts

Both Chief Berry and Captain Lopez engaged in gender discrimination directed at the female firefighter who filed the complaint. There are a ton of little things that are done to women to sabotage their careers. Those usually include limiting their experiences and keeping them from getting additional training.

According to the complaint, Captain Lopez would not let her work an arson scene alone because “he did not think I could handle myself on scene alone because I am a woman.” She knows that is the reason because the captain said so to a lieutenant. He also kept her from being a Field Training Officer (FTO) even though she had the required experience. FTOs usually get a little more pay so, in addition to taking away an ability to add to her experience, he was also keeping her from accessing a financial opportunity.

Chief Berry took actions to inhibit her career, too. “The complaint states that in September 2019 Berry then declined to let the female firefighter attend tryouts for an executive protection detail.” This action by Chief Berry could very well have been retaliation. The female firefighter had already complained in 2018, about two incidents involving Chief Berry. In one incident Chief Berry said, when referring to a group of women, “It looked like a damn lesbian softball team.” The other incident involved the female firefighter recommending a friend for a job at the Fusion Center. Chief Berry held his hands over his chest and said, “yeah but does she have?” 

For those two incidents, Chief Berry received an 80 hour suspension but he was allowed to give up time from his leave balance instead. What that means is he never felt a thing. He didn’t have to go leave without pay. He didn’t get demoted. He didn’t even have to face the embarrassment of being away from work and everyone knowing he was suspended. Nothing. The only things that happened were he saw his leave balance go down a bit, something he could quickly bring back up, and he now had a specific person to target.

Retaliation

The female firefighter said that Chief Berry made it clear to everyone that he was willing to retaliate against people who went against him. It does appear that both he and Captain Lopez were making decisions that would negatively impact her career. According to the complaint, she states, “As I write this letter and prepare to sign and tum it in, I am terrified of what he and Captain Lopez will do to me when they find out.” This is the reality for women working for the San Antonio Fire Department and it’s long past time that something was done about it. It’s also necessary that the public stops idolizing firefighters. Being a hero while fighting a fire doesn’t mean you are a good person the rest of the time.

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