Florida fire chief denies claims of racism and homophobia — but residents say otherwise

Florida fire chief denies claims of racism and homophobia — but residents say otherwise
St. Petersburg Fire Chief James Large, Image via screengrab/10 Tampa Bay.

After being placed on administrative leave earlier this month over allegations of "racism, sexism, and homophobia," St. Petersburg, Florida Fire Chief James Large is denying the allegations against him, Bay News 9 reports.

"This where I spent most of my life. I love this city, but it is necessary for my family and I to defend ourselves," the chief said during a press conference held Friday, August 18. "I want to be completely transparent during this process and for my record to stand on its own merit."

WFLA News Channel 8 notes the Large's attorney Jay Hebert defended his client claiming, "If a qualified candidate is available that was an African-American, the Chief hired 87 percent. This is 2023 and we’re not going to take and allow this to occur, and by systemic or even a little piece of it. It is though, not perfect."

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Lt. Teresa Bieber-Rehsi also defended Large saying, "The fire department I know is one of opportunity and a level playing field for those who respect procedure and those who put in the work."

Capt. Lindsey Kensinger added, "It is this culture of support and empowerment that Chief Large has cultivated leading to my current position as a proud female captain. A role I never once thought I could achieve without the guidance provided."

However, according to WFLA, St. Petersburg NAACP President Ester Matthews denounced the chief saying he "must be terminated."

She emphasized, "It is clear that Fire Chief Large holds a disparaging, stereotypical belief and that hampered his ability to effectively lead the city's fire department."

READ MORE: FBI arrests California cops accused of 'violently racist, misogynistic and anti-gay' behavior: report

Bay News 9's full report is available at this link. WFLA's report is here.

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