UPDATE: Chief Kelvin Cochran suspended for one month without pay by Mayor Kasim Reed.
Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran’s self-published book “Who Told You That You Were Naked” is filled with anti-gay language, leading city officials to open an investigation.
• “Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.”
• “Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”
The GA Voice sought comment from Cochran and the Fire Department and instead received this statement from Mayor Kasim Reed’s office:
“The Reed administration was not notified of the book before it was published. The Reed administration will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. In fact, the city of Atlanta has a number of laws that prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, and sex. The Reed administration is currently conducting a review of the facts surrounding the book. If disciplinary action is recommended as a result of the investigation, we will take decisive action to prevent any inappropriate behavior from occurring in the future,” said spokesperson Anne Torres.
Atlanta just received a 100 score on the Human Right Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which includes scoring on nearly 50 factors under six broad factors including non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, city employment policies, inclusiveness in city services, law enforcement and city leadership on matters of LGBT equality. Atlanta has been the only city in the Deep South to score a 100 two years in a row.
Cochran’s book also includes an author page and describes him as a “devout Christian man” whose “greatest desire is to fulfill the purpose of God for his life and to be living proof of God’s exceeding great and precious promises.” Cochran is also a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church and serves as a deacon and teacher, according to the book’s author’s page.
Retired Atlanta Fire Department Captain Cindy Thompson, who is openly gay, was informed of the book by other firefighters who were disturbed by the book. Thompson, who retired in 2009 after 30 years with the department, contacted the GA Voice to get the word out about the anti-gay book. Today she she said she talked with Robin Shahar, the LGBT liaison for Mayor Reed’s office, about the book and the worry from local firefighters.
“I talked to her a long time. She was pretty shocked by the book herself, I believe. She wished some employees had come forward. But they are not that comfortable. Even though they are to be protected by doing so, some don’t feel that way. And also [speaking out] can follow you,” Thompson said.
Thompson, who now lives in California with her partner, has family in Atlanta and is visiting here for the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s when the fire department employees happened to catch her and ask her for her help.
“This is highly disturbing. I can’t quite believe it, especially since he attached his name and his job to it. That pretty much says how the department thinks,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she knew Chief Cochran while she worked at the department but “didn’t know this side of him.” She did say she knew he was a religious man and because she had “bad vibes” about him she voluntarily took a demotion from battalion chief to captain. “I just didn’t get a good feeling from him,” she said. “Now I see this book and know I was right all along.”
If an employee of the fire department wrote this book and attached their name and title with it, Thompson said she’s sure they would face a stiff penalty, if not termination. She said she believes Cochran should face the same kind of punishment, if not stricter.
“I think he should be held to a higher standard. If you’re going to publicize something, a book or publication, you’re supposed to get it approved,” she said. “So he didn’t get it approved. In my personal opinion, I don’t think he should be working there. If someone is writing a book against other groups, like a member of KKK writing something … Atlanta doesn’t tolerate stuff like that. This doesn’t follow any of the anti-discrimination policies or general feeling of the city.”
And by putting his name and title with the book, Chief Cochran is essentially saying that this is what the city of Atlanta’s fire department believes as well.
“It reflects on the department. People can buy this book and think, ‘This must be their beliefs,'” she said. “And that shouldn’t be allowed.”
Background on Cochran from the city of Atlanta’s website includes this information:
Chief Cochran’s began his career in the fire service in 1981 as a firefighter for the Shreveport, La., Fire Department. He was promoted to fire training officer and served in this capacity from 1985 to 1990, when he became assistant chief training officer. He was appointed the Department’s fire chief on August 26, 1999.
On January 2, 2008, Chief Cochran was tapped by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to serve as Fire Chief for the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. He served in that capacity until July 2009, when President Barack Obama appointed him as U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Chief Cochran was charged with overseeing, coordinating, and directing national efforts to prevent fires and improve fire response. He worked extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
On May 8, 2010, Chief Cochran returned to Atlanta to resume the position of fire chief. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Atlanta City Council on August 16, 2010.
Chief Cochran has more than 28 years of fire service experience with involvement in all phases of the profession: fire fighting, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, recruiting, public education, research and development, employee counseling, discipline, performance evaluation, and administration, with specialization in training and strategic planning/facilitating. He has held positions with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), serving on the board of directors as first vice president in 2007 and second vice president in 2006. He is also a past chair of the IAFC Program Planning Committee and President of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association. Chief Cochran is a member of the IAFC; the IAFC Southeastern Division; the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section; the Georgia Fire Chiefs Association and Metro Atlanta Fire Chiefs Association.
He authored two chapters — Chapter 1, “Leadership and Management,” and Chapter 25, “The Fire Chief of the Future,” for the Chief Fire Officers Desk Reference, published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
UPDATE: Mayor Reed issues a statement at about 4:30 p.m. on Monday:
I was surprised and disappointed to learn of this book on Friday. I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community. I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.
We are conducting a thorough review of the facts surrounding the book and its distribution. In the interim, I have directed that the following steps be taken:
· Chief Cochran will be suspended for one month without pay;
· Chief Cochran will be required to complete sensitivity training;
· Chief Cochran will be prohibited from distributing the book on city property; and
· Deputy Chief Joel G. Baker will serve as Acting Fire Chief in Chief Cochran’s absence.
I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the Administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs.”
Reed also posted the statement to his Facebook page.
UPDATE at 5:30 p.m.: Glen Paul Freedman, chair of Georgia Equality’s board of directors, issued a statement that he didn’t believe Reed’s actions were tough enough. Georgia Equality is the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization.
“The Mayor only gave him one month off without pay and then he will be back in charge of the AFD and giving orders to his entire department. His views towards the LGBT community are shameful. He will be back in charge and I am sure telling his staff anti-LGBT stuff. I wonder how many LGBT AFD staff were not promoted or held back because of his views and telling his staff his views. The Mayor should fire him!” Freedman said.
“The mayor is walking a very fine line here and only giving the chief one month without pay is not the answer in this situation and the LGBT community should demand more after the city of Atlanta just received 100 percent on the HRC [municipal] equality index,” he added.