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Former Sacramento Firefighter Accuses Department Of Hostile Work Environment

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento firefighter quit the department after he says the racism he faced became unbearable.

Desmond Lewis played D1 football at UC Davis, graduated, then landed his dream job.

"This was my dream department these are the people and community I wanted to serve," Lewis said.

Lewis graduated from the fire academy in the middle of the pandemic and summer of civil unrest. He says everything changed.

He says his coworkers started making racist remarks such as, "'Can't these people stop protesting and go back to shooting each other.' 'Was driving by a group of black kids and called them n****.'"

He says it wasn't just racism he faced inside of the Sacramento Fire Department.

"The way they talk about women, different sexualities. They still say re*** and F***. A firefighter being bold enough to say the n-word is upsetting and frustrating.," Lewis said.

Jaymes Butler is one of two African-American captains within the Sacramento Fire Department. He says he's not surprised by Lewis's allegations.

"Do I believe it? Yes, I do believe it. Because this is what happens when you don't recruit a diverse department," Butler said.

The Sacramento Fire Department is made up of roughly 700 personnel and nearly 70% of them are white men.

"Once the experiences he shared became known to the administration they started an investigation with the city's Equal Opportunity Employment officers. We strive to have a department the mirrors the community we serve. Knowing that we can do better," department spokesperson Keith Wade said.

"It sucks that this happened and my dream department wasn't all that I thought it was but it doesn't mean there's not another place out there for me," Lewis said.

Captain Butler tells CBS13 he was on an advisory committee that presented recommendations to the city council and officials for how to better diversify the department, like more funding for outreach programs and recruitment, but he says they never saw any additional financial support.

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