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West Palm Beach Fla--Firefighters Claim Racial Discrimination

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  • West Palm Beach Fla--Firefighters Claim Racial Discrimination

    Black West Palm firefighters want chief out


    By J. Christopher Hain, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Friday, June 20, 2003


    WEST PALM BEACH -- Four black city firefighters threatening a discrimination lawsuit are calling for the firing of the city's white fire chief and the immediate promotion of African-Americans to the upper ranks.

    Mayor Lois Frankel met with the firefighters and their attorney last week, seeking suggestions on how to solve the department's racial problems and avoid a court fight. In a letter sent this week to Frankel, the firefighters recommended removing Fire Chief Ray Carter, demoting an unnamed assistant chief, and promoting a black to battalion chief. They also want new promotional testing procedures, among other items.

    For themselves, the four firefighters -- Aaron Richardson, Michael Williams, Leonard Smith and Rick Curtis -- want promotions they contend were wrongly denied, and retroactive pay raises. Curtis, who said he was retaliated against for filing discrimination complaints, also is seeking two years salary for damages.

    Frank McKeown, the firefighters' attorney, said the suggestions aren't unwavering.

    "Are we out there saying you better get rid of the chief? No," he said. "If we don't get some resolution, then we would have no choice but to bring (discrimination) claims and bring a lawsuit."

    He said he believes Frankel is trying to resolve the problem "quietly and expeditiously." But the department's upper management must be held responsible, he said.

    "It stops at the top," McKeown said. "If these things occurred, then these individuals should be brought to task."

    Frankel said the fire department will be making changes in recruitment, hiring and promotions. However, she said, she was not yet passing judgment on the fire chief.

    "That's a pretty dramatic suggestion," she said. "I made it very clear that I wasn't going to tolerate any kind of racial discrimination in the fire department."

    Carter became chief in 2002 the city firefighters lobbied against then-Mayor Joel Daves' black nominee for the post: Rhett Turnquest, then a captain. The union contended Turnquest wasn't qualified. When city commissioners rejected Turnquest's nomination, Daves appointed Carter, a battalion chief. He also promoted Turnquest to assistant chief.

    Carter was out of town and could not be reached Thursday. Brent Braunworth, president of the local firefighters' union, did not return a message seeking comment.

    After reviewing fire department hiring and promotion records, McKeown offered a detailed list of problems in the letter to Frankel. Among the allegations:


    • No blacks have been hired by the fire department in three years, even though there have been 26 such applicants.

    •The department failed to promote qualified black firefighters who scored higher on written exams than white firefighters.

    •Oral exams for promotion are racially biased.

    •White firefighters were promoted even though they scored poorly on oral exams.

    •No blacks sit on the department's oral examination board.

    •Black firefighters who complained about discrimination suffered retaliation.

    Frankel said the department must improve its minority recruitment and needs a much fairer promotions process.

    The city may consider bringing some people from outside the department onto review boards and offering all applicants equal study groups for exams.

    "I think we have some good suggestions," Frankel said. "I'd like to take a look at their recommendations."

    The four firefighters recommended:

    •Removal of fire chief and operational chief.

    •Promoting candidates to fire chief and operational chief who are racially sensitive.

    •Promoting a black to a battalion chief.

    •Reorganizing the city human resources department. (The director and a top assistant were fired last week by Frankel.)

    •Establishing race-neutral written and oral testing.

    •Adding a black to the hiring and promotions boards.

    McKeown said the suggestions would bring the fire department back into racial balance.

    "We just want to make it right," he said.

    [email protected]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  • #2
    Establishing race-nuetral oral and written boards
    Can someone explain to me what exactly "race-nuetral" boards are? Do they ask special questions that only white people can answer? Is there some form of knowledge that we white folk automatically have that no other race has?
    IACOJ

    Comment


    • #3
      Jeeesh..........

      Somebody drop this mess in the toilet and flush. Please. A racially sensitive Fire Chief? How about a Fire Chief who treats Everyone the same? That's what they should be asking for. No one is ever owed anything because of their race, sex, national origion, or whatever. Nor should anyone ever be denied an equal shot at something for the same reason. End of speech. Stay Safe....
      Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
      In memory of
      Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
      Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

      IACOJ Budget Analyst

      I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

      www.gdvfd18.com

      Comment


      • #4
        As we have all said in previous posts....There has got to be something here that we are not aware of.

        Hwoods.... I agree with you!
        09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
        ------------------------------
        IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
        "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
        BMI Investigator
        ------------------------------
        The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

        Comment


        • #5
          can someone with more knowledge of civil service exams please explain this to me? i thought promotions and hirings were all done by written interviews (where the graders didn't know the race of the applicants). I know there are also oral interveiws, but i thought the primary factors were written tests and history, to ensure all hirings/promotions were blind to race and ethnicity. as for the issue itself:
          •Oral exams for promotion are racially biased.
          how are can they be racially biased?
          The four firefighters recommended:

          1) Removal of fire chief and operational chief.

          2) Promoting candidates to fire chief and operational chief who are racially sensitive.

          3) Promoting a black to a battalion chief.

          4) Reorganizing the city human resources department. (The director and a top assistant were fired last week by Frankel.)

          5) Establishing race-neutral written and oral testing.

          6)Adding a black to the hiring and promotions boards.
          1) so you are going to remove the current chief and operations chief (I'm guessing the #2 guy in the dept) based soly on the chiefs' race? isn't that racisim?
          2) can't a white chief be racially sensitive? or are they stereotyping that white people arn't racially sensitive to anyone else?
          3) I'm all in favor of promoting a black person to the rank of Batt. Chief, if he (or she) is the most qualified person for te job. but I don't think a "token black chief" (and that sounds really bad, I know, but that is what they seem to be wanting) will be a good thing.
          4) not sure what this will accomplish
          5) again, aren't civil service exams designed to be race neutral?
          6) depending on how they set up the board, this may or may not be a good idea.

          I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd rather have my officer the most qualified person for the job. if he's white, then that's who I want. if he's black, then that's who I want. If she is a woman, then that's who I want. I don't, and I can't imagine anyone who does, want my officer to be in charge of me because of his race/gender/ethnicity. I want them to be the best qualified person for the job.

          remember, a fire doesn't care. it is an equal opertunity destroyer.
          Last edited by drparasite; 06-24-2003, 02:33 AM.
          If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

          FF/EMT/DBP

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: West Palm Beach Fla--Firefighters Claim Racial Discrimination

            We have examined this issue before in the "Diversity in the Fire Service" thread, and I re-submit my comments from that discussion.

            http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...2&pagenumber=4

            Speaking directly to the charges made by the firefighters:

            Originally posted by captstanm1
            Black West Palm firefighters want chief out

            •No blacks have been hired by the fire department in three years, even though there have been 26 such applicants.

            •The department failed to promote qualified black firefighters who scored higher on written exams than white firefighters.

            •Oral exams for promotion are racially biased.

            •White firefighters were promoted even though they scored poorly on oral exams.

            •No blacks sit on the department's oral examination board.

            •Black firefighters who complained about discrimination suffered retaliation.
            If these allegations are true, I support with the ff's request for an external program review.

            I don't know if firing the current Chief is really the right thing to do or even necessary to promote change, but it sounds to me like the ff's are asking for a lot in the hopes they get a little.

            If you want some more info on testing standards and their inherant bias, go to:

            www.fairtest.org

            There are plenty of good articles and links to studies, including a summary of a recent Supreme Court decision that supports the claim that standardized testing is inherently biased.
            Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

            IACOJ

            Comment

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