Bridgeport Conn Firefighters test is flawed
Minority firefighters rip hiring practices
Whites also complain firefighter tests flawed Minority firefighters rip hiring practices
BRIDGEPORT - Minority firefighter groups charge that the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division intimidated firefighter candidates during recent background checks, part of the hiring process.
The firefighters also dispute the relevance of some of the questions asked during the background check. Internal Affairs conducts the checks and draws up the questions asked.
Meanwhile, a group of white candidates also claims the testing process is flawed and discriminates against whites.
Nearly a dozen minority firefighter candidates complained after the Jan. 17 screening session at City Hall Annex, said Ron Mackey, president of the Bridgeport Firebirds Society, and Donald Day, director of the Northeast region of the International Association of Black Fire Fighters.
They had to fill out a booklet asking for personal and employment information.
"A couple [of candidates] said they kept emphasizing you can't keep anything out" without facing arrest for perjury, Mackey said. "Not, 'You could,' but, 'You will be arrested if you leave something out.' "
Day said that put an overemphasis on the prospect of arrest. "The bulk of the people [candidates] were minorities," he added.
Police and the city's Civil Service Department deny the groups' charges.
John C. Colligan, civil service director, said he had received no complaints but would forward any sent to him to police.
Questioners "always" stress to candidates the penalty for perjury, and that any candidate who gives false information is disqualified from the hiring process, he said.
Sheila Santiago, police spokeswoman, defended the process and the questions candidates were asked. She said anyone aggrieved can file a complaint. None has been filed so far, she said.
they're all subject to a background check," she said. "We have to look into the candidates' backgrounds."
The minority groups said the background questionnaire was 25 pages. The recent session was the first time it was used, they claimed.
The candidates who complained also took issue with the questions.
The candidates said they were asked how many times they'd called out sick from previous jobs and where they had lived since they were born. They also were asked whether they had been expelled from school or been present when someone was arrested.
"We're talking about grown adults here," Day said of the candidates.
The top 100 candidates who passed entrance exams were ranked by score. The list expires two years after the first hiring date.
Day and Mackey said they received complaints almost immediately after the session.
Candidates can file complaints with the city, but many will likely not do so out of fear the city might retaliate by rejecting them, the leaders added.
"They are literally scared to," Mackey said.
He added that he does not expect any complaints to be filed.
Both minority firefighter groups, as well as the Bridgeport Hispanic Firefighters Association, led by Ron Morales, have vowed to monitor the Fire Department's hiring process to ensure fair hiring practices.
The next step is to analyze why some people were eliminated or hired, Day said.
The city could start hiring in April. There are 40 potential openings for firefighters, depending on available funding.
In the 1970s, minority firefighters successfully sued to get a judge to toss out a lieutenant exam, claiming it was racist.
A group of 18 white candidates, led by John Bolton, claim the hiring and testing process was "flawed, discriminatory and unacceptable."
"We're undertaking an analysis of process," said Jerry Leaphart, a Danbury lawyer hired by the group of white candidates.
He said the analysis is "pointing in the direction of serious flaws in the hiring process."
Bolton said his group is having difficulty getting complete test scores from the city for some of the candidates. Nevertheless, they are planning to seek a state court injunction next week, which would stop any new hiring.
"I know of four candidates who failed the written test but are placed in the top 100 of the hiring list," said Bolton, who is at 108.
Staff writer Michael P. Mayko contributed to this report.
What is up with that 4 guys failed written and are in the top 100 on the hiring list???????? . How can that happan???? What do think is going happen here ???? guys