A longtime firefighter will take over leadership of the Denver Fire Department after a year of tumult over how the department treats its minority and female firefighters.
Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday appointed Desmond Fulton to be Denver’s new fire chief.
Fulton will take the helm of a department recently embroiled in a series of scandals. The previous chief, Eric Tade, resigned the top position in February after making sex jokes at a firefighters ball and a lieutenant retired in 2019 two days before he was arrested for allegedly secretly recording a female firefighter changing clothes. The new chief also will take on a lawsuit filed last week by two Black firefighters who alleged they were discriminated against because of their race and gender.
Fulton, who has worked at the department for 22 years and achieved the rank of deputy chief, acknowledged the past struggles during a news conference and said the department needs to have “difficult conversations” and to create a collaborative approach to make change. He did not directly answer a reporter’s question of whether there is a culture problem inside the department.
“We just need to do a better job of treating each other well,” he said.
Fulton named the city’s budget crisis, civil unrest and the mental wellness of his staff as the top challenges the department faces.
Hancock chose Fulton to be the chief from a group of four finalists vetted by a selection committee of city council representatives, fire department leaders and community members. The mayor credited Fulton with creating a mentorship program for women and people of color in the department and helping to create a new maternity policy for firefighters, among other accomplishments.
Fulton will be sworn in as chief on Monday. Tade, the previous chief, remains at the department as an assistant chief.
“Now is the time to transform the department into a 21st-century fire department,” Hancock said.
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