New Britain Fire Chief on Leave Pending Racial Bias Investigation

The New Britain fire chief will be on paid administrative leave starting today pending an investigation into racial bias. 

Mayor Erin Stewart presented Chief Thomas Ronalter with a report to determine whether racial bias is present at the fire department. 

"While I agree the fire department has issues to resolve, I disagree with many of the findings in the report," Ronalter said in a statement Thursday. "Unfortunately, since all employees were not interviewed, I believe the report is not as fair and balanced as it should be. Many firefighters did not participate, because they were informed that the investigation was focused on alleged racism in the Department, and they did not have comments concerning racial bias."

Stewart's office said Ronalter will be placed on leave indefinitely, pending an investigation by the mayor. 

On Thursday, Stewart tweeted: "Sometimes it may be tough...but I will ALWAYS do what it (sic) right."

In his statement, Ronalter said he has "embraced" a diverse workforce and claims that out of the firefighters he has hired during his time as fire chief, 50 percent have been minorities and women. 

"I detest racism and all of the harm it causes. While I have made mistakes, I have never treated people -- firefighters or otherwise -- differently based on the color of their skin," Ronalter wrote.

He ended the statement by saying he is ready to work with the mayor, the fire department's command staff and all firefighters to address any problems. 

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