I truly believe that 2023 could be remembered as “The Year The Bastard Enablers Won.”
I mean, the tape doesn’t lie.
One of the most infuriating examples comes from the exposé released by Rooster showing how Washington leadership failed in preventing rotting food from being served to our veterans at the Aurora VA Hospital.
Another stomach-churning episode occurred when it was found that the state was lying to the public when it came to holding bad cops accountable through dubious recordkeeping methods. And in each case, there was one constant factor: nobody in charge wanted to see the rotten apples infesting these groups of various public caretakers to be punished—or, even at the very least, be thrown out of the bushel.
Sadly, it seems that a new group of public servants are being subjected to these same toxic work environments.
Enter the Denver Fire Department …
For the Denver Fire Department, 2023 began with a thud that could rival the sound made by any turd birthed by Colorado’s own Randy Marsh. In January, Denver firefighter Lieutenant Jared Russo—nicknamed “Racist Rover”—was fired from the department after an internal investigation found some disturbing facts. While researching his actions, they found a host of examples where he made racist remarks. Firefighters told investigators that Russo said, “All you guys look alike” to a Black firefighter and that Asians are bad drivers. Russo also allegedly said that the Holocaust never happened and that “slaves were lucky to have been brought to this country.”
Then, in May, Captain Jason Norris of the Denver Fire Department was demoted after the Denver Department of Public Safety found that he had violated multiple parts of the department’s code of conduct. Some of these violations included: managing in an inconsiderate and unfair manner, using poor judgment, engaging in “intimidating, threatening, or hostile behaviors,” lying to supervisors, using derogatory terms toward others, and discriminating or harassing an employee based on their identity.
Because of the prevalence and severity of his remarks/conduct, the workplace became so toxic that Norris was demoted two steps; from captain to firefighter first-grade.
Though I must admit I was glad to see these assholes be relieved of their duties, the frequency and intensity with which these accusations were coming to light during 2023 were incredibly troubling. And it’s clear that my feelings were being shared by many—including Denver Mayor Mike Johnston.
As the year progressed and these types of stories became newsworthy mainstays, Mayor Johnston hatched a plan to have Denver area firefighters fill out an honest survey about their work experiences and environment. In an attempt to help repair the public relations nightmare of distrust that was forming, Johnston claimed he would release the results publicly.
Johnston wrote a message to firefighters asking them to complete the questionnaire by saying, “We want to hear your voice, input and feedback about your experience within your department.” The survey, which was sent on city email systems in October, asked seven questions about department leadership, transparency, and confidence in the department’s senior leadership.
Everything seemed to be going fine until Johnston got the results. Upon seeing them, he quickly changed his mind and made them completely unavailable. When CBS News asked why an open records request to see the surveys was denied, Johnston’s communications team called them “privileged” and that they are a “Work product prepared for an elected official.”
Interestingly enough, shortly after Johnston got the results of the survey, he announced on December 8th that he was reappointing Denver Fire Chief Desmond Fulton.
It’s clear that something is amiss at the Denver Fire Department. It’s also clear that we’re not going to find out the truth any time soon. However, at some point, there are going to be too many people in positions of power in Colorado trying to hide the sins of their subordinates before everything blows up.
I believe one of two things will happen.
The amount of misdirections used by those at the top to shelter these bad behaviors will become too overwhelming and someone eventually fucks-up past the point of repair (which is where I see various police departments around the state heading), thereby decimating what little trust the public has left in their elected officials.
The public finally has enough and starts putting people into office that are just as tired of seeing these various forms of public perception bullshit playtime games as they are, and they use their political might to do the right thing by throwing some asses out the door.
Of course, I could be wrong on both counts. With all the examples I’ve given today of these horrific behaviors happening in so many levels of public service/government, it would appear that these repeated failures are just the system working as intended.