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Colorado firefighter nicknamed "Racist Rover" loses bid to get job back

Denver fire lieutenant fired over repeated allegedly racist comments
Denver fire lieutenant fired over repeated allegedly racist comments 00:29

A Denver civil service hearing officer has rejected an appeal by a former Denver Fire Department lieutenant who was fired in 2022 after repeated instances of disparaging racial remarks on the job. Those remarks earned Jared Russo the nickname the "Racist Rover."  


In a 20 page decision dated June 11, Denver Civil Service Commission hearing officer Carrie Clein upheld Russo's firing, noting Russo had "a deep-seated issue that may be difficult if not impossible to correct."

Russo joined the fire department in 2011 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2020. But, according to Denver Fire Department witnesses, Russo told an Asian firefighter "that he drove well for an Asian," told an African-American firefighter "that all Blacks look alike" and told a Jewish firefighter who lost family members in the Holocaust "that Jews perished in the Holocaust from starvation and not from atrocities inflicted on them by the Nazis."

Although the hearing officer wrote that Russo was considered knowledgeable and good at his job and well liked by co-workers who got to know him, he was also described by colleagues as "a conspiracy theorist ... Socially unaware ... Very open about his beliefs."

The hearing officer wrote that the targets of Russo's statements believed he was kidding around and did not take offense at the statements. Six fellow firefighters wrote letters in support of Russo.

Clein wrote that Russo "is not a 'racist' in the traditional sense of the term" but that he "did engage in promoting racism in the workplace" through his ignorance of the impact of his behavior and his inability to judge other people's feelings."

Ultimately, the hearing officer said that while Russo may not intend to belittle or hurt people, he still violated department policies.

While Russo admitted wrongdoing, the hearing officer "did not find (Russo) sincere in his admission of wrongdoing."

Clein wrote that "It is also reasonable to conclude that the damage done to some of (Russo's) working relationships might never be able to be corrected."

While the hearing officer ruled Russo had "no ill intent," she upheld his firing from the department.

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