Orlando, FL

Orlando Fire Chief accused of hitting a woman is suspended. Does he deserve a harsher punishment?

Evie M.

I understand this news story originally exploded on August 16, but I had to know: Do you think the Fire Chief who was suspended with pay after accusations surfaced of him punching a woman in the face should get a harsher punishment?

I'll back up in case by some chance you haven't read the news.

The week started out with the Orlando Fire Department announcing on Monday that they've placed Benjamin Barksdale Jr., the Orlando Fire Department Chief on suspension with pay. Barksdale, who had over three decades of professional fire experience, was appointed to lead the Orlando Fire Department as the 20th chief back in 2019.

According to the Orlando Fire Department, he was placed on said suspension after they were "made aware of a misdemeanor arrest warrant issued for Barksdale in North Carolina," with the official warrant reading "assault on female" after his involvement "in some kind of incident at a restaurant last month."

Both the city and Orlando released a statement about Barksdale reading:

“We have been made aware of a misdemeanor arrest warrant involving Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale in the state of North Carolina. Chief Barksdale has been suspended with pay. In his absence, the acting Fire Chief will be Deputy Fire Chief Craig Buckley."

But is a suspension with pay enough? Should he be fired?

This isn't the only time such a case has come up in the news around the country, or in Florida.

Back in 2020, an unnamed officer from Miami-Dade was fired from his job after video footage from a filmmaker named Billy Corben posted a video on Twitter showing him talking to a woman without a face mask at Miami-Dade International Airport who becomes upset, telling him: " “You acting like you white when you really Black. What you want to do?”

When she comes inches from the officer's face, he takes the opportunity to land a punch right on her chin. In the official police report, the officer claimed he'd retaliated after the woman "headbutted him" before he landed the blow and other officers rushed in to contain the situation, which can be seen as an all out scramble on video.

The officer was quickly fired, with Miami Dade PD Alfredo Ramirez II saying he was "shocked and angered" by the body cam footage and that he was "relieved of duty". However the president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association Steadman Stahl had said the officer used an "open-hand lap" or "diversionary strike" on the woman who was "clearly the aggressor."

“She was being asked to leave. She’s being belligerent and she pushes her face right into his face.”

According to the original report in the Miami Herald, the officer was called to the ticket agent counter when the he woman was "loudly complaining about a missed or delayed flight". The officer started talking to the woman and the strike happened once the incident escalated.

People flooded to social media to share their thoughts on the incident, with comments ranging from "play stupid games, win stupid prizes" to commenters angered over the "headbutt" which they feel didn't happen, saying they hope he loses his job because she didn't touch him.

Should the same punishment be handed out to Benjamin Barksdale? Many are commenting on Facebook that there is just not enough info to condemn him, while others are claiming he's getting a "paid vacation" as a reward. What are your thoughts, Orlando? Should the Fire Chief receive a harsher punishment? Is it too soon to tell? Let me know in the comments.

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