Community leaders call on Omaha Fire, union to support Black women firefighters

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 8:22 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The personnel board heard on Thursday denied an appeal from Sheena Glover that she was denied a promotion after defending a colleague following a racist incident.

Glover said she had been denied promotion to the rank of captain for defending fellow Omaha firefighter Jane Crudup, who was allegedly a victim of a racially motivated hazing incident on March 3, 2020, when her uniform was reportedly hung in the shape of a noose.

A lawsuit filed against the City of Omaha on Feb. 5 in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska describes the incident, which complainants said symbolized a lynching.

Other incidents in the lawsuit describe training situations when a white male fire captain — addressing Crudups concerns that she was being “dehumanized and talked down to” — told her to “shut up and listen to what others are trying to say.” That same fire captain also reportedly told Crudup “you need to learn how to take a joke and laugh at yourself if you want to have some longevity with the fire department,” court documents state.

The city investigated the claim and deemed it “unsubstantiated. City and Omaha Fire Department officials said they concluded the allegations were “pranks” and “hazing for the purpose of training... to teach crucial lessons,” and “just how the fire department works.”

The city has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

“Omaha’s history of lynching and white supremacist violence is well documented and what happened to Jane Crudup, only the fifth Black woman to serve as a firefighter in the 150-year history of the City of Omaha, is inexcusable,” according to a letter to Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen signed by several Omaha community leaders.

The grievance was dismissed on the grounds that it had not been filed within the allotted timeframe.

Glover’s supporters were asked to attend the board hearing Thursday morning in solidarity.

“You and your counterparts have the opportunity to repair your relationship with the Black community by promoting Sheena Glover to the position of captain which she has rightfully earned through over a decade of dedicated work, personal and professional development, and by being an exceptional role model and ambassador for this department,” said the letter signed by Preston Love Jr., Jonathan Lathan, Manuel Cook, Akeydra Hagens, State Sen. Terrell McKinney, Precious McKesson, Alexander Elliot, Mary Lawson, Michelle Troxclair, Bear Alexander, Peyton Zyla, Willie Hamilton, Johnny Nesbit, Tamika Mease, Kyiia Rollag, Alexis Bromley, Qasim Shabazz, Joanna Leflore, Terri D Sanders, JaKeen Fox, and the Black Agenda Alliance.

Another letter signed by the same group was sent to the Omaha Association of Black Professional Firefighters, stating that support for LB-208, which would allow funding for repairs to the organization’s north Omaha facility, was on the line:

“We would love to support this effort but would not feel comfortable without proof that this association proactively supports its Black sisters during their time of need. If you don’t do your duty to your Black sisters in the profession, you are undeserving of these funds and are unwelcome in the North Omaha community.”

Omaha Fire leadership referred questions to their legal department.

Investigative Reporter Brian Mastre contributed to this report.

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