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San Francisco officials launched an investigation into Black trainees’ allegations of racism and hazing at the city’s fire training academy, which other recruits dispute, NBC News-Bay Area reported.

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“If this is a matter of actual racial animus, let’s get to the bottom of that, let’s root that out. That’s a cancer. We need to remove that immediately,” Joe Alioto Veronese, a member of the city’s fire commission and a civil rights lawyer, said, adding that he hopes the investigation reveals whether the complaints are legitimate or just the grievances of recruits struggling to graduate from the academy.

The allegations came from eight African-American trainees in a letter to Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. They wrote that the N-word was used in a training session. These recruits, who called themselves the “brave men of color,” also accused the academy of “retaliatory, demeaning, punishing, and racist/sexist behavior.” Two of the three firefighter recruits who were recently booted from the academy could be among the eight who signed the letter, according to the news outlet.

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A petition from the trainees’ classmates disputes the allegations, saying “each of us is treated fairly, without any indication of racism, sexism, or favoritism,’’ the network reported. Meanwhile, fire department officials are not speaking. Hayes-White declined an interview request from NBC, and the department’s spokesman Jonathan Baxter would only confirm that a complaint was filed. The Black Firefighters Association said it looks forward to a “complete, thorough and unbiased investigation” from the city’s attorney. The organization’s board members are publicly backing the eight Black trainees.

SOURCE:  NBC News-Bay Area

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