Houston Fire Fighters Association Demands Action
April 7, 2010

It’s been months since two Houston female firefighters, Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes,  reported that they found racist and sexist graffiti on their lockers at fire station #54.

Despite an internal affairs investigation by the Houston Police Department and a probe by the FBI,  no one  has been charged with a crime or officially named a suspect.

Today,  the Houston  Professional Fire Fighters Association is asking Mayor Annise Parker and acting Fire Chief Rick Flanagan to “acknowledge the firefighters exonerated in the city’s nine month investigation of the alleged graffiti incident and other issues at Fire Station #54.”

According to the group, 39 firefighters were polygraphed, gave sworn statements or handwriting samples.

In a news release sent to 2 On The Beat, President Jeff  Caynon states “the  Mayor rightly said recently that Houston firefighters are unjustly under a cloud…….the city now has the opportunity to lift that cloud.”

Stay tuned – I’ll try to get reaction from Mayor Parker and Acting Chief  Flanagan later today.

Encouraging Young Women to Become FireFighters
January 19, 2010

A new program  could help increase the number of  women in the Houston Fire Department – even as HFD is dealing with accusations that is not a very welcoming place for women.

CampHoustonFire is a new program for young women in high school.  Once accepted into Camp Houston Fire,  they’ll get a hands on learning experience about the rigors and the rewards of   being a firefighter. 

While it could take years to increase the number of women in the Houston Fire Department, this program is a good start.

HFD is still dealing with the fallout from problems reported last year at station #54.  That’s when female firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes reported that they found racist and sexist graffiti scrawled on their lockers. A picture of Draycott’s deceased daughter was also defaced.

After several months, dozens of  interviews and a handful of  polygraphs, the Office of Inspector General still hasn’t released a report about its investigation into the incident.

There are hundreds of hard-working and professional men and women in the Houston Fire Department.  But,  as  long as questions remain unanswered, some will continue to view it as place where women aren’t fully accepted and  are subjected to a hostile work environment.

Still No Answers In Fire Dept. Investigation
September 1, 2009

Houston Firefighter Jane Draycott and her attorney Joe Ahmad made a brief  appearance at city hall on Tuesday afternoon.

They attended a news conference organized by the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice.  Members of  the group called on city leaders and  investigators to end what they described as  “harassment and intimidation” against Draycott.

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While Draycott did not speak to reporters, Ahmad said he was relieved that the Harris County District Attorney’s office has decided to withdraw an order  that would have allowed police to arrest and detain Draycott until she provided a handwriting sample. 

Draycott provided the handwriting sample four weeks ago, but according to Ahmad the order was still valid, which meant that law enforcement officials could arrest her at any time.

Ahmad filed a Writ of Mandamus with the 14th Court of Appeals arguing that the order was obtained in secret and without jurisdiction.

The DA’s Office isn’t commenting about the decision to withdraw the order.

On July 7, Draycott and fellow firefighter Paul Keyes  reported that they found racist and sexist graffiti on their lockers at fire station 54.

During the city council meeting that followed the news conference, Council member Jolanda Jones, who has  never wavered in her support of  Draycott,  said, “I just don’t understand how we can  continue to victimize victims and pick on women.”

The City’s Office of  Inspector General is conducting an investigation, and some have called on the U.S. Department of  Justice to launch an independent probe.