An Oakland firefighter is at the center of the latest high-profile case of what appears to be racial profiling in the area.
Last month, Kevin Moore and some colleagues were performing routine inspections in the upscale Oakland Hills, which has some of the priciest real estate in the Bay Area. Another firefighter, Megan Bryan, was so frustrated with the treatment he received from residents during the inspection, she wrote a post about it on Facebook.
Because California wildfires have been devastating in recent years, Oakland Fire Fighters scour neighborhoods looking for fuel, such as dead trees and brush, to help mitigate a potential disaster.
The fuel inspections are done annually and fire fighters try to alert the residents by knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. If no one is home, they still conduct the inspection — sometimes going in backyards and taking photos. The purpose is to decrease the chances of a wildfire spreading from house to house by eliminating dry fuel on the property.
Moore was wearing his usual dark blue uniform while he performed the inspections, and carried a radio and clipboard, Bryan wrote in her post.
Still, that didn’t stop one resident from calling the fire department to confirm that they were actually performing inspections, and sending security footage of Moore to the police department because she “suspected ‘criminal activity’ at her house,” Bryan wrote.
Then, when Moore was out performing inspections again last week, Bryan wrote, he was singled out again. This time, a resident approached him while video recording him on a phone.
“He kind of startled me,” Moore told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“He says, ‘Well, what are you doing here?’” Moore told the newspaper. “I say, ‘We’re here doing our annual vegetation inspection.’ Then he asks for ID. I say no problem. He takes a picture of my ID and says I need to get a different one. I’ve had that ID for years. It’s kind of dark, and I’m more of a dark-skinned black guy, but you can still see me.”
CNN could not reach Moore for comment.
While Bryan did not state what race those residents were, the majority of residents in Oakland Hills are white, according to census figures.
“Just in case you think people of color are treated the same as whites in this country, ” Bryan wrote in her Facebook post. “Let’s just say I’ve never had the cops called on me, in uniform or not. I’ve never been videoed, nor has anyone ever asked for my Fire Dept ID.”
CNN reached out to the Oakland Fire Department and to Bryan for comment, but hasn’t yet heard back.
According to the Chronicle, Moore was part of a group of firefighters honored by the Oakland City Council “for honor and bravery” in 2008 when he and others “jumped into a ravine to save passengers trapped inside an overturned vehicle during a rainstorm, then waded through the canal in search of an ejected 10-month-old baby.”
Dan Robertson, president of the Oakland Firefighters Association, said he is saddened by the incidents involving Moore, a 12 year veteran.
“It’s unfortunate this situation had to happen. We like to think in the San Francisco Bay Area we live in a bubble where this sort of thing doesn’t exist but clearly it does. Especially in light of things going on nationally,” Robertson said.
“As fire fighters we’ll continue to do our jobs, including putting our lives on the line for everyone who calls us, whoever needs our help regardless of whatever biases they may have.”
Moore’s story comes on the heels of several widely publicized Bay Area incidents in which white people called police on black residents doing mundane things.
This week, a white woman was filmed calling the police on an 8-year-old African-American girl selling bottles of water without a permit.
The woman, Alison Ettel, has since apologized, and said the incident had nothing to do with race. She said she called the police department to confirm it was illegal to sell water without a permit, but did not file a report or request an officer to be dispatched.
Earlier this month, a white man was dubbed “Jogger Joe” after he was caught on video in Oakland throwing away a black homeless man’s belongings.
In April, a white woman in Oakland became known as “BBQ Becky” on social media after she called police on black people who were barbecuing in an area of a park where that was banned, CNN affiliate KRON reported.
SOURCE: Dan Simon, CNN