Complaint: SAFD district chief asked about woman’s breast size, likened room of women to ‘lesbian softball team’

Office of Municipal Integrity complaint provides details of 2018 comments made by District Chief Douglas Berry

District Chief Douglas Berry
District Chief Douglas Berry (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A district chief with the San Antonio Fire Department asked if a female applicant had big breasts and described a room of women at a promotional event ‘like a damn lesbian softball team,’ according to a sworn complaint filed against him and another SAFD supervisor last fall.

District Chief Douglas Berry was suspended for the 2018 comments in September, SAFD suspension records released last week confirm.

Berry’s suspension paperwork, however, did not include information about the specific comments, only that they were made in front of subordinates while Berry was on duty and that Chief Charles Hood became aware of them in April.

The sworn complaint, filed with the city’s Office of Municipal Integrity by a female firefighter and provided Tuesday to the KSAT Defenders by a source familiar with the allegations, provided extensive details about the comments.

The complaint accused Captain Raul Lopez of gender and sexual orientation discrimination and stated that Berry “displayed disrespectful and degrading behavior toward women.”

In March 2019, after new employees were assigned to the department’s Arson Bureau, Lopez refused to let the female firefighter work alone because “he did not think I could handle myself on scene alone because I am a woman,” according to the complaint.

The comment was made by Lopez to a lieutenant within the department, according to the complaint.

Lopez is also accused of not giving the female firefighter an opportunity to be a field training officer, even though she had the proper experience.

The complaint states that in September 2019 Berry then declined to let the female firefighter attend tryouts for an executive protection detail.

The female firefighter was eventually assigned as a field training officer for a graduate of the police academy, but he had already completed his “FTO” period, the complaint states.

“I believe Chief Berry made this decision to try to appease me because he knows I feel like I am being discriminated against for being a woman,” the complaint states.

In August 2018, the female firefighter informed Berry that her friend was interested in applying for a position at the South Texas Fusion Center, “an office that Chief Berry directly oversees,” according to the complaint.

After the female firefighter asked if Berry could put in a good word for her friend, Berry asked, “yeah but does she have?” and then put both of his hands in front of his chest, indicating he was asking if she had big breasts,” the complaint states.

“It bothered me that all he cared about in his hiring process was the size of a women’s breasts,” the female firefighter wrote.

A month later, in September 2018, while Berry prepared for a boxing tournament he was taking part in he told a story about a promotional event he recently attended, the complaint states.

“He said he thought more people would be there, but when he got there he realized it was only him and ‘a room full of fat chicks.’ ‘It looked like a damn lesbian softball team,’ were his exact words. As a lesbian, I usually don’t get offended by jokes but this was insulting, degrading and judgmental and I was extremely bothered by it,” the complaint states.

“In the past, when someone bucks Chief Berry, they are retaliated against. If the Investigators in the Arson Bureau challenge him on a decision that he makes, he tells us that he will ‘hit the reset button,’ and take away all the extra things we get to do in the office, like our take home vehicles and getting to work overtime. As I write this letter and prepare to sign and tum it in, I am terrified of what he and Captain Lopez will do to me when they find out,” the complaint states.

SAFD officials have not said why Hood was unaware of Berry’s comments until April, five months after the complaint against Lopez and Berry was formally filed with the city.

Hood did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

During a discipline meeting with Hood earlier this year, Berry apologized and said there had been a major adjustment moving from the field to a desk job.

Berry forfeited 80 hours of vacation leave in lieu of serving the suspension, disciplinary records show.


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.