Kevin Moore, a black Oakland firefighter, was conducting fire inspections in the Oakland Hills area, looking for wildfire hazards such as dead plants, when he was reported to police by one resident and questioned and videotaped by another, raising concerns about racial bias, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Moore’s coworker, Megan Bryan, posted about the incidents on Facebook, saying that she, a white woman, has "never had the cops called on me, in uniform or not."
During the inspections, which residents are notified of ahead of time, firefighters try to talk to residents before they walk on the property, by ringing doorbells or knocking. If no one’s home, the firefighters are supposed to do the inspection anyway, while taking photos and notes, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I try to put myself in other people’s shoes, like if I see someone in my yard, I’d ask what they’re doing," Moore told the newspaper, adding that he always calls out "Hello! Hello! Oakland Fire Department!"
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"I just don’t want somebody to look out their window and see somebody in their backyard," he said. "I’m not trying to be incognito."
Bryan said in her Facebook post that last month, while firefighters were on a shift, Moore was walking around a property after ringing the doorbell and the resident called a 911 emergency dispatcher to ask if they were actually doing inspections.
"She also sent security footage of my coworker to the police dept., saying she suspected 'criminal activity' at her house," Bryan wrote. "Let me explain to you we drive a big red fire engine to these houses, wear our uniforms, wear a radio on us and carry an iPad/clipboard."
Police sent the video to Vincent Crudele, who heads the fire department's vegetation management unit, according to BuzzFeed.
"It shows him properly doing his job," Crudele told the publication. "It's very obvious, actually, because he is wearing his jacket, radio, and was out there representing the department and ensuring that people and their homes are safe."
Bryan also described a second incident, which happened last week. Moore had rung the doorbell and yelled "Fire Department!" while he walked to the front yard to start his inspection when he heard a man ask, "Can I help you?"
When he turned around, he saw a man recording him on a phone, Bryan wrote. After Moore explained that he was doing an inspection, the man asked for his identification, which Moore provided.
"He takes a picture of my ID and says I need to get a different one," Moore told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I've had that ID for years. It's kind of dark, and I'm more of a dark-skinned black guy, but you can still see me." Moore then told the man that if he was still concerned, he could look at the fire engine parked right on the street, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Officials have not released the locations of the inspections, nor have they identified the residents, according to the East Bay Times.
Some residents have defended the resident's decision to call the cops on Moore.
"I consider myself liberal, 100 percent," Carol Sensedorf, an Orinda resident, told KTVU. "But there is so much robbery and it all goes on NextDoor. Someone literally posted, 'Did anyone see a man in a yellow vest?' the other day. It turned out to be someone from PG&E."
She continued: "We call on everybody. It doesn't mean you're racist. It means you have your eyes open."
When Moore's engine company, Local 55, posted the San Francisco Chronicle story on Facebook, a man named Sean Fitzpatrick commented, saying that "we have an extremely high rate of property crimes in the Oakland Hills, and home burglaries are at the top of the list."
Fitzpatrick went on to say that "often, criminals wear official-looking gear and have fake ID so they can gain entry into a home."
"It's sad that the people who are prepared to lay their lives on the line for our city and residents can be treated like this, especially in a town like Oakland which we consider forward-thinking and modern," fire union president Lt. Dan Robertson told the East Bay Times. "But despite that, your Oakland firefighters are always here to help everyone without judgment."