Black Firefighters Say City's Most Recent Entrance Exam Also Racially Discriminates

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Members of the FDNY Members of the FDNY (Al_HikesAZ/flickr)

A federal judge in Brooklyn will soon decide whether a 2007 entrance exam for firefighters discriminated against blacks and Hispanics.

The city wants to use the 2007 test results because it says it needs to quickly hire 300 new firefighters before the end of summer. No other entrance exam has been administered since 2007.

Anjana Samant is a lawyer for the Vulcan Society -- a fraternity of black firefighters who say the test was too hard for entry-level firefighters, and that candidates who are family members of the predominantly white fire department had an unfair advantage. "There's no doubt that individuals who come from families of firefighters are more familiar with the lingo," says Samant, "with the way in which the firefighting system and the processes work, and engine houses work or ladder companies work." Samant says court papers show the FDNY is currently 93 percent white and the department has a tradition of hiring generations of family members.

Both the city and the Vulcan Society agree that the number of white candidates who passed the 2007 test far exceeded the number of minority candidates who passed. The law requires that the city show the test was properly designed to fit the needs of the fire department.

The Vulcan Society says the 2007 test is racially discriminatory and therefore the city should ignore the exam results when hiring the new summer class. The organization says the pool of new hires should instead be about 40 percent minority. That proportion would reflect the pool of candidates who took the 2007 test.

But if the test is thrown out, Samant says the court would still need to figure out a way to ensure these minority hires would be qualified to be firefighters. "Obviously, the Vulcan Society is concerned about public safety," says Samant. "They want people coming on the force from their communities who are going to do a great job. Most certainly, you know, they have no interest in just randomly pulling someone off the street."

Lawyers for the city declined to comment on the pending case.

The hearing will likely conclude this afternoon. Judge Nicholas Garaufis is expected to issue a decision by next week. He has already ruled that two exams from 1999 and 2002 were discriminatory.

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Comments [1]

Michael A. from Buffalo, New York

It is my suggestion that your station might consider avoiding combining news with editorials. The court found that the test used by the City of New York is discriminatory, invalid and intentionally illegal over a very long period. The reference to the test being "too hard" is not an issue. Certainly, there may be issues with the vernacular and other aspects of the test related to behavior, however the how and why's of the test being determined as invalid is beyond such limited factors as referred to in this article. When in doubt, check the facts, the judges ruling and subsequent order. The issues involved are very complicated and esoteric enough with the erroneous and flagrant spin. I certainly would have thought better of your station given the great difference the same writer exibited when the same story ran on NYC. Please, the public depends upon your honest and unbiased reporting. A reasonable professional standard is expected and failing in this case.

Aug. 05 2010 01:35 PM

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