Kevin Moore, dressed in his firefighter uniform, was conducting city-mandated inspections of vegetation around homes in Oakland last month when police were called. The call came in that a suspicious person was in the neighborhood.
“It’s extremely unfortunate,” said fire Capt. Damon Covington, president of the Oakland Black Firefighters Association. “From the outside, it certainly appears to be unfair and unwarranted. The fire service is a microcosm of the world. Racism exists in the world, and it exists in Oakland and everywhere else.”
This is the third recent incident in the Oakland/Bay Area alone where police have been called on innocent black people. On April 29, a white woman, now dubbed BBQ Becky, called police on a group of black people who were grilling in an Oakland park. Her complaint was that they were using charcoal in an area that was banned. Police arrived. No one was arrested, but a month later, hundreds of black people showed up to the same park to have a major cookout in an event they called “BBQing While Black.”
Last week, another white woman in Oakland called the police on an 8-year-old selling bottled water.
Nationally, there was the incident at Starbucks in Philadelphia, which led to the arrest of two black men who were real estate investors simply waiting to discuss a deal with a partner. All of these incidents were caught on film.
In this latest incident, Moore was simply doing his job. Every summer in Oakland firefighters check for potential wildfire-spreading hazards like tree limbs hanging over chimneys or a buildup of dead plants. Firefighters may take pictures and notes as they are inspecting the homes in the neighborhood. That’s what Moore was doing when the police were called.
“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 San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s why I always call out, ‘Hello! Hello! Oakland Fire Department!’ Because I want to be heard. I just don’t want somebody to look out their window and see somebody in their backyard. I’m not trying to be incognito.”
Moore isn’t just a firefighter, he’s also a hero. According to The Chronicle, he was among a group of firefighters honored by the City Council for “bravery and heroism” in 2008 when they jumped into a ravine to save passengers trapped inside an overturned vehicle during a rainstorm, then waded through the canal in search of an ejected 10-month-old baby.