Fire Cadet Program Under Fire, Flyer Called Racist

by July 8, 2011

A flyer hanging on the job posting board at the San Bernardino Fire Department announcing a new program to train cadets has ignited some citizens of SB to claim it’s racist.The cadet program was recently voted on by the city council to give teenagers who live in the community the opportunity to work for the San Bernardino Fire Department, one of the last departments to become fully integrated.  Only eight of the city’s 148 firefighters live in the city.

They are paid between $90,000 to $160,000 a year.  The Cadet program will be funded by the San Bernardino Employment and Training funds (SEBTA) and will not cost the city.  It follows the model of the city’s highly successful Police Cadet Program.

The flyer mocks the level of service one can expect with the adoption of the new Cadet program that was fully supported by fire management at the council meeting.

“The flyer is the new kind of racism,” says Councilman Rikke Van Johnson.  He continues: “it is a sick individual that put it together who should not be employed by the City of San Bernardino.” The poor quality flyer displays a photo of a young Black male in a uniform with braids, a fat White man in front of the fire truck and a White female, who is a senior, dressed like a forest fire fighter or a beekeeper.  The title reads: “Help Wanted… Help the City of San Bernardino augment their staffing levels by becoming a volunteer/cadet/reserve firefighter.”

Below the City Fire Department logo are the words “Professionalism in Action”.  At the bottom of the flyer are poor quality photos of Deputy Commander Matt Fratus, Rikke Van Johnson, Virginia Marquez, and Charles McNeely, all supporters of the cadet program, as was the council as a whole.

“The program was to give kids in our community a chance to be a fireman in the City of San Bernardino.  That department needs to be a reflection of the community it serves,” said Johnson. He also said the program doesn’t target senior citizens but there is hope for the youth and the only photo was that of a Black youth with braids that is why he said it is “ a blatantly racist document.”

“I’d hate to be in the mind of the person who conceived it,” said Johnson.

Allegedly the flyers were placed on bulletin boards around the fire department.

Calls to Fratus, McNeely, and Marquez were not returned at press time.  View the flyer online at

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