Wichita Fire Department Supervisor Suspended over Racist Text Message [Updated]

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Photo:  Firefighter Montreal (Shutterstock)
Photo: Firefighter Montreal (Shutterstock)

Updated as of 6/14/2022 at 5:00 p.m. ET

Capt. Keith Niemann of the Wichita Fire Department was suspended after the discovery of an inappropriate text message he’d sent in a WhatsApp chat, according to The Wichita Eagle. This is the latest scandal the city since their SWAT officers were exposed for a slew of racist and homophobic text messages months ago.

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Niemann sent a photo of himself in an ugly Christmas sweater to the chat but not just any sweater. The design was a cartoon version of the Wardy “Woody” Joubert meme (Google at your own will) with a Christmas present covering Joubert’s crotch. “I have a big package for you,” read the sweater, per the Wichita Eagle. He was also holding a mug with Joubert’s picture and “vulgar saying.

Other department employees were also found to partake in inappropriate meme-sharing. However, Niemann received the harshest penalty out of them all: three days suspended without pay.

More from the Wichita Eagle:

A second fire supervisor was disciplined for sending two people a photoshopped image from “A Christmas Story” after Christmas 2020. The image showed the character Flick sticking his tongue to a pole, with the pole replaced by a Black male body part. The character Ralphie is on the other side of the pole staring.

The unpaid suspension for Niemann was a harsher penalty than that for Jamie Crouch, a police sergeant who sent a photoshopped image of Joubert sitting on the head of George Floyd, who was killed when a white officer knelt on his neck. Crouch was given a reprimand. Both Niemann and Crouch are white.

Niemann was also given a harsher penalty than any of the other 10-plus officers, some of whom have fatally shot people and who sent messages joking about shooting and beating people.

Fire Chief Tammy Snow said she is “deeply disappointed” the behavior of the two supervisors. Their messages were found in connection to the other racist and homophobic messages exchanged within the SWAT team. Niemann and the other supervisor were medics on SWAT, NBC reported.

Stephanie Yeager, business manager from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 135, said Niemann was sorrowful for his actions and didn’t understand the significance of the memes.