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Unprecedented' Suspension for Racial Slur Over Fire Radio

CHICAGO-- Two Chicago Fire Department paramedics were suspended after their conversation -- in which one of the two used a racial epithet -- was beamed over a communications radio, fire officials confirmed Tuesday.

The incident happened Jan. 9 when the two were having a discussion and one used profane language. Apparently unaware their radio microphone was on, the conversation went over one of the radio dispatch channels, and a high-ranking fire official heard it.

Both paramedics were put on leave within two hours and an internal affairs investigation was launched.

A paramedic, described only as a man who used the racist language, received a "long suspension," said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

He said that an agreement with the union prevents him from saying much more about the disciplinary case, but characterized the suspension's length as "unprecedented."

The second paramedic, also a man, received a shorter suspension. The paramedics, assigned to an ambulance that serves O'Hare Airport, have already been disciplined and have returned to work.

In 1999, Fire Commissioner Edward Altman and his son, Edward Altman Jr., were forced to resign after a video showed firefighters using racial slurs.

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