MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A retired captain of the Mobile Fire Department is speaking out after a department employee was demoted for using a racial slur.
Raymond Heningburg is a 35-plus year veteran of the department and also the first president of the Progressive Black Firefighters of Mobile Association.
He said when it comes down to it, his days at the firehouse were some of the best.
"I enjoyed every minute of it," said Heningburg. "If I had another career to chose, I would choose firefighting again."
He said the department was a real brotherhood, which is why he was shocked to hear that former Captain Roderick Kesterson used a racial slur in the presence of the city's first and only female African American firefighter.
Thursday, the city settled with Kesterson for using the racial slur, deciding to demote him only one rank, to driver.
"To have something like this happen and as far as I'm concerned get spanked on the hand, it's not right. I think the punishment should have been more severe," said the retired Captain.
Roderick began his career with the Mobile Fire Department in 1987, and according to personnel officials, he has no prior disciplinary history.
In addition to being demoted, Roderick was also suspended for 30 days without pay.
Heningburg said he believes Kesterson should have been fired, asked to retire, or at the very least demoted two pay grades, to firefighter.
He said the racial slur was uncalled for and sends the wrong message to other employees.
"It's degrading and it's always single toward one race of people. He might not have meant any harm but he should have known better and he never should have spoken the word," he said.
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