SAN JUAN COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT 4
Lopez Island Fire and EMS Department
2228 Fisherman Bay Road
Lopez Island, WA 98261
July 3, 2020
A Message to the Lopez Island Community,
On Sunday, June 28, 2020, I was made aware by Lopez Island Fire & EMS Commissioners Becky Smith and Duane Bordvick of E-mails they received asserting a Lopez Island Firefighter/EMT displayed a hand sign in a photograph that represented white supremacy and was therefore racist. The Commissioners asked me to investigate this immediately and to report back to them and to the community the results of my investigation.
First it’s important to note that my investigation determined that this subject and issue is not new and was investigated and acted upon last year by Chief Havner shortly after the photograph was taken. That said, here is what else I found.
My investigation first determined the photograph in the E-mails was clipped from a Department group photo taken in October 2019. The group photo was intended for a newspaper article and as a retirement gift for Captain/Paramedic Tracie Red Elk. My investigation also determined that this issue was the subject of an investigation and action last year by then Chief Havner a few days after the group photo was taken. Specifically, a few others in the department noticed the hand sign in the photograph and notified Chief Havner (Chief Havner resigned on 2/29/2020.) I contacted Chief Havner who told me he met with the individual who displayed the hand sign and this individual denied any racist meaning behind his hand sign. During my investigation the individual again denied any racist meaning behind his hand sign. The individual said the hand sign was and I quote: the “Three percent sign that is something I (and most members of The Washington 3% organization) do when someone points a camera”. This photograph was taken at a Lopez Island Fire & EMS department sponsored event, on department property. I want to emphasize in the strongest possible terms that Lopez Island Fire & EMS is apolitical and we do not allow or endorse any political activity during department events, emergencies, while wearing our uniforms or on fire department property. The individual displaying this hand sign violated this policy and Chief Havner dealt with this individual at the time including the agreement that this individual digitally remove the hand sign from the photograph. My investigation determined that Chief Havner handled this issue without notifying Commissioners Becky Smith, Duane Bordvick and Jim Lett. My investigation also discovered a copy of the photograph on the individual’s personal facebook page and he immediately apologized and removed it, on or about 6/30/2020. My investigation also included interviewing the responsible individual and other members of the department.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS is an organization dedicated to the Lopez Community’s Health, Welfare and Safety and we regret the damage to our reputation and do not condone or endorse this individual’s political beliefs.
Based on this one photograph, a few individuals have attacked this person as a racist and supporter of white supremacy and forwarded those statements to our website and to the Fire District Commissioners. The individual being targeted denies these allegations and no member of Lopez Fire & EMS nor have any of the citizens we serve brought such charges or concerns against this individual, until the offending photo was posted on social media.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS is an organization dedicated to inclusiveness and we welcome all people of color, religion, gender, national origin, marital status, age, gender identity and sexual orientation. Racist and discriminatory behavior is not tolerated.
Lopez Island Fire & EMS regrets and apologizes to our community for the trauma this photo has caused our community and our reputation and we will strive to regain all of your trust. Stronger department policies are being written and training scheduled to prevent further occurrences from happening.
Jim Ghiglione, Acting Fire Chief
Becky Smith, Commissioner, Chair
Duane Bordvick, Commissioner
Phil Paige, Commissioner
We are dedicated to the preservation and protection of life, property and the environment through a team effort of public education, fire prevention, disaster preparedness and mitigation. We provide emergency fire, rescue and medical services.
We serve the community and recognize that our people and associated support resources are the key to our success. We strive to be a valued member of the community.
Our objectives are to focus on excellence in the services we provide through continuous improvement in:
We hold the taxpayers interest in high regard and are prudent and effective in the use of resources entrusted to us. These values are the foundations of this District. All staff adhere to these and model them for our community.
We respond from four strategically located fire stations:
4 Fire Engines