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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber MrYuk's Avatar
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    Default Houston Fire Department Lawsuit

    Surprised this has not been posted yet.

    7 black Houston firefighters sue, say city exam biased
    By CAROLYN FEIBEL
    Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
    Feb. 5, 2009, 12:31PM

    Seven black firefighters are suing the city, contending that the Houston Fire Department’s test for officer promotions adversely affects blacks.

    “This is systemic discrimination,” said the firefighters’ attorney, Dennis Thompson. “Selection rates for African-Americans are abysmally smaller than for white candidates.”

    City Council on Wednesday delayed consideration of a request by the city attorney’s office to spend up to $197,000 on an outside law firm to defend the city against the federal lawsuit, which was filed in August. The council is expected to take up the request next week.

    Firefighters trying to attain the rank of captain and above in the Houston Fire Department must take a 100-question multiple-choice test. Numerous studies show that blacks as a group do less well on high-stakes tests, Thompson said. He said fire departments should use cognitive tests only as a pass-fail benchmark and also should focus on performance exercises and other criteria.

    “We don’t do as well on these multiple-choice tests,” said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. “I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student.”

    HFD has about 4,200 firefighters and paramedics. Roughly 700 are black, Jordan said.

    Senior Assistant City Attorney Timothy Higley declined to comment on the substance of the lawsuit, but he said the case was complex.

    “It’s all about the testing system in the Fire Department, so it’s going to require quite a bit of analysis,” Higley said. “Analysis about the validity of the testing program (and) whether the testing program is valid in the sense that it tests people for what is necessary in order to be (an officer).”

    Kevin Michael Foster, an education anthropologist at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, agreed that research has demonstrated a test score gap between blacks and whites. There are several theories about why, but a primary explanation has to do with minority students disproportionately receiving inferior educations compared to whites, he said.

    “If you are African-American, there is a greater likelihood that throughout your academic career you have been taught by teachers of less experience, you have been taught in settings of low-performing schools,” Foster said.

    During standardized tests, minorities are also vulnerable to performance anxieties that stem from cultural stereotypes, Foster said. The result, he said, is that historically marginalized groups often do worse on tests, especially “high stakes” tests that affect one’s livelihood or future life path.
    System adjusted in 2005

    While officer promotions once heavily emphasized the written test, HFD’s system was adjusted in 2005 as part of a collective bargaining agreement, said Jeffrey Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341. There has been only one testing cycle since the change, he added.

    The new system ranks candidates based on a 122-point system: 100 points possible from the multiple-choice test, and other points awarded based on seniority, college or graduate education, and level of state fire certification. When vacancies occur, candidates are promoted from the top of the list. Promotions in the lower ranks still use the old system of 100 points for a written test and 10 points for seniority, for a maximum of 110, according to Assistant Fire Chief Bill Barry.

    The lawsuit seeks promotions to captain or senior captain for the plaintiffs, back pay and damages.
    "Training doesn't make you a good fireman, fighting fire makes you a good fireman"
    http://thedarksideof911.blogspot.com/
    FTM-PTB-EGH
    IACOJ


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    So if minorities are shown to do worse in high stress situations when their livlihood is at stake, then why would you want them running a scene and being responsible for peoples lives? I have attended high school and college with minorities and know for a fact that there was no real gap in grades for whites or blacks. In fact no minorities failed out of my high school, while 14 whites failed out my senior year. The tests are meant to be hard, if you don't pass, study better and be better prepared, don't go to the good ol' race card off the bat. I failed organic chemistry 2 my senior year of college, thus delaying my attending dental school and changing of degrees, I didn't blame anyone but myself because I didn't learn the material well enough, probably due to my poor attendance.

    On a side note, when is Houston Fire going to get a White firefighters association, and if they do will it be considered "elitest" and prejudice?
    Last edited by MOFIRE; 02-05-2009 at 11:43 PM.

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    MembersZone Subscriber MrYuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MOFIRE View Post
    On a side note, when is Houston Fire going to get a White firefighters association, and if they do will it be considered "elitest" and prejudice?
    Few years ago, when the Black Firefighters Assn would go into the academy classes to pitch the organization, they would make all the white cadets leave the room. That has finally been stopped and a Chief always sits in the room during the presentation.
    "Training doesn't make you a good fireman, fighting fire makes you a good fireman"
    http://thedarksideof911.blogspot.com/
    FTM-PTB-EGH
    IACOJ

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    I never understood the basis of these claims. The same people claiming tests that test basic aptitude are unfairly slanted against blacks, will be the first one to call me a racist if I say black people are dumb. You can't have your cake and eat it too!


    The real problem here is EVERYONE white, black, male, female, etc, gets ****ed off when they do poorly on promotional or entrance exams and looks for ways to get around the fact they didn't do well. Black candidates have the race card, white candidates often look for some administrative faux paus to sue over. That's really all it is, someone who is ****y they did bad.


    Don't even get me started on the Black Fireman's Associations. Ugh,

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmitchell View Post
    Few years ago, when the Black Firefighters Assn would go into the academy classes to pitch the organization, they would make all the white cadets leave the room. That has finally been stopped and a Chief always sits in the room during the presentation.


    WOW, talk about an opportunity for a payday.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Dickey's Avatar
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    Like I have said before, this is just reverse discrimination.

    Lower the standard so I don't have to work as hard.
    Jason Knecht
    Assistant Chief
    Altoona Fire Dept.
    Altoona, WI

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    Forum Member BKDRAFT's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Hey this isn't fair they keep scoring better than I do. Should I study harder?Nah **** it I will just sue.

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    “We don’t do as well on these multiple-choice tests,” said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. “I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student.”
    So because you and your cohorts have dark skin...you are incapable of preparing yourself to compete in a competitive job market? Interesting...I thought one goal of the civil rights movement was to rid the world of the idea that blacks or certain other groups of people were genetically inferior to people with lighter colored skin.

    How insulting this must be...to blacks to have worked hard and achived something of meaning in this world.

    Read more about this type of racist garbage here:

    Firehouse Diversity
    Endangering us for diversitys sake
    Racist Firefighters Exam
    DOJ sues FDNY
    Hands off our fire department.
    Court to hear New Haven Case
    Support the New Haven 20 here!
    Last edited by FFFRED; 02-06-2009 at 09:10 AM.

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    Forum Member FHJ718's Avatar
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    As a "minority" Fire Fighter nothing ****es me off more than to hear some of these organizations with the whining.A good thing about the Department I'm on is promotions are based strictly on test scores (written,certifications,colleg e,time in grade,time on job etc.) If the department wants to "get" to someone, the people ahead of that candidate get the job too.
    I've taken 5 exams to reach the Chief level. Two for LT,2 for Captain, and 1 for District Chief.Each exam I studied for over a year (min. 1500 hours) and in between each one I attended any & all classes which would increase my experience mark,which is 1/5th of your final mark.I'm now starting to do what I can to get ready for the Deputy Chiefs exam which is in another year.
    The organization in my city started whining about this several year ago and fortunately no ones paid them any mind.When I say to some of them, you want to get promoted study harder,attend classes etc.. I get that look like I have 5 heads.When I tell them messing with the process will eventually belittle the members who earned it, I get called "Sell-out" WTF.

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    I volunteer with HFD, and I've heard complaints from people (regardless of skin color), that the test only advances those who test well and have head knowledge. The guys I've talked to feel that while there should be a test to pass rankings should also depend on your reviews and job performance. A 100% on the captains test doesn't mean you will be able to apply that knowledge or be a good leader.


    Ironically, from what I understand, the promotional process is designed like this to "avoid discrimination". Supposedly incorporating job performance is too subjective and leads to discrimination... guess you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

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    Firefighters trying to attain the rank of captain and above in the Houston Fire Department must take a 100-question multiple-choice test. Numerous studies show that blacks as a group do less well on high-stakes tests, Thompson said. He said fire departments should use cognitive tests only as a pass-fail benchmark and also should focus on performance exercises and other criteria.
    Great, just called all his pals dumb. We can't take test as well as our smarter counterparts I've got a better idea, how about teaching those that don't do as well the material. Obviously, if you can't pass the test it is because you don't know the material

    “We don’t do as well on these multiple-choice tests,” said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. “I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student.”
    Conversely, the coaches aren't the best athletes, but they are the more knowledgeable about how to play the game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by haskins View Post
    I volunteer with HFD, and I've heard complaints from people (regardless of skin color), that the test only advances those who test well and have head knowledge. The guys I've talked to feel that while there should be a test to pass rankings should also depend on your reviews and job performance. A 100% on the captains test doesn't mean you will be able to apply that knowledge or be a good leader.


    Ironically, from what I understand, the promotional process is designed like this to "avoid discrimination". Supposedly incorporating job performance is too subjective and leads to discrimination... guess you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
    It is called civil service examinations. It should promote those who thoroughly learn and retain all relevant dept practices, procedures and policies.

    It rewards those who prepare well...not "test" well. Would you want Medical or Pilots licenses going to persons who didn't "test" well? Would you fly with them or let them operate on your children?...I seriously doubt it.

    FTM-PTB

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED View Post
    It rewards those who prepare well...not "test" well. Would you want Medical or Pilots licenses going to persons who didn't "test" well? Would you fly with them or let them operate on your children?...I seriously doubt it.

    FTM-PTB

    He's not a test taker, but he's still a hell of a surgeon, very prepared. He just gets the whole "ventricle-atrium" thing backwards.

    No thanks.

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    Although I do agree that a promotion should be partly based on how well you can perform the job as some are far better leaders than others, but not being able to pass a simple written test should automatically tell you that the people in question are not capable of leading anyone. They had to take a State exam to become professional firemen, why should a promotional exam be any different?

    Say this lawsuit went in their favor. Imagine wearing that gold badge on your chest knowing that you didn't earn it like everyone else. Imagine the lack of respect from the firefighters who know their officer got the position by going around the rules and taking the easy way out. Wow what a role model and a leader that would be. I hope these 7 become ridiculed and quit. I am saddened to be part of a brotherhood with people like that.
    "Training doesn't make you a good fireman, fighting fire makes you a good fireman"
    http://thedarksideof911.blogspot.com/
    FTM-PTB-EGH
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmitchell View Post
    Although I do agree that a promotion should be partly based on how well you can perform the job as some are far better leaders than others, but not being able to pass a simple written test should automatically tell you that the people in question are not capable of leading anyone. They had to take a State exam to become professional firemen, why should a promotional exam be any different?

    Say this lawsuit went in their favor. Imagine wearing that gold badge on your chest knowing that you didn't earn it like everyone else. Imagine the lack of respect from the firefighters who know their officer got the position by going around the rules and taking the easy way out. Wow what a role model and a leader that would be. I hope these 7 become ridiculed and quit. I am saddened to be part of a brotherhood with people like that.
    I don't know how long you've been in but that's already happened in HFD. Ask aorund about the "remedial" promotions that occured several yaers ago.

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    I am all about being fair to everyone. If there is a problem with the system change it. If you have a problems taking test there are lots of practice test sites and programs to improve your test taking skills.
    I believe all promotional exams should be a combination of a written exam and practical exercises. I have seen fire officers with college degrees that can score 100 on nearly any written exam you give them but can't manage a dumpster fire. You have people that you can ask questions on a written exam about what actions are required for an on the job injury. They will get it right. Give them the form and a scenario and they are lost. There might be some truth to what these seven firefighters are claiming. I don’t believe for one moment that what they are claiming about written exams is exclusive to African Americans. Fire Officers need to be able to pass a written exam and demonstrate their cognitive skills while under high stress. Lives depend on it. That’s my personal experience with nearly 20 years in the fire service. The last ten as a career fire officer.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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    these are the times when you think Martin Luther King was right when he said "I had a dream." It sure doesn't sound like he saw the future, just had a dream...

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED View Post
    So because you and your cohorts have dark skin...you are incapable of preparing yourself to compete in a competitive job market? Interesting...I thought one goal of the civil rights movement was to rid the world of the idea that blacks or certain other groups of people were genetically inferior to people with lighter colored skin.

    How insulting this must be...to blacks to have worked hard and achived something of meaning in this world.

    Read more about this type of racist garbage here:

    Firehouse Diversity
    Endangering us for diversitys sake
    Racist Firefighters Exam
    DOJ sues FDNY
    Hands off our fire department.
    Court to hear New Haven Case
    Support the New Haven 20 here!

    I have heard a rumor that the US Geological Survey has put seismometers around Dr. Martin Luther King's crypt... They report getting daily readings that it appears to be something is rolling over inside of it....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmitchell View Post
    Imagine wearing that gold badge on your chest knowing that you didn't earn it like everyone else. Imagine the lack of respect from the firefighters who know their officer got the position by going around the rules and taking the easy way out. Wow what a role model and a leader that would be. I hope these 7 become ridiculed and quit. I am saddened to be part of a brotherhood with people like that.
    We have that here. Several years ago we had a black Fire Chief who thought that there wasn't enough representation in the upper ranks. Shortly after that the "Black Firefighters Union" was formed. There was a promotional exam given for the rank of Captain. The top 14 were white and Hispanic, 15-19 were black. The Chief instituted the "rule of 20, which meant he could pass over no more than the top 20 on the list and choose whoever he wanted. Four Captains were made, guess which ones. When the top 14 decided to grieve the list they were told it was racially biased for them to protest and the grievance was thrown out.

    I feel sorry for HFD. Nobody deserves that kind of tension in the firehouse.
    IAFF

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    AMEN Brother!


    Quote Originally Posted by snowball View Post
    We have that here. Several years ago we had a black Fire Chief who thought that there wasn't enough representation in the upper ranks. Shortly after that the "Black Firefighters Union" was formed. There was a promotional exam given for the rank of Captain. The top 14 were white and Hispanic, 15-19 were black. The Chief instituted the "rule of 20, which meant he could pass over no more than the top 20 on the list and choose whoever he wanted. Four Captains were made, guess which ones. When the top 14 decided to grieve the list they were told it was racially biased for them to protest and the grievance was thrown out.

    I feel sorry for HFD. Nobody deserves that kind of tension in the firehouse.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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