Dallas Black Firefighters Accuse City of Bias
The Dallas Morning News
Aug. 8--The Dallas Black Fire Fighters Association has filed suit against the city of Dallas seeking to change what it says is pervasive discrimination against minorities and women in hiring, training, transfers, promotions and discipline.
"These people are being discriminated against," said Grover Hankins, a Houston attorney who specializes in employment discrimination cases. "There are some very hard-core discriminatory practices that are going on in that department."
The lawsuit, filed in state district court on July 19, seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting "unfair discriminatory employment policies" and demands more than $75,000 in damages for each person.
The city attorney and fire officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"We'll await the outcome of the legal action and abide by the judge's decision," said Lt. Joel Lavender, a Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman.
Issues surrounding race have long been contentious and litigious in Dallas Fire-Rescue.
The black firefighters association filed a class action in the late 1980s, alleging that blacks lagged in hiring and promotions.
The city settled the lawsuit for about $860,00 in the mid-1990s. The settlement mandated numerous changes, including revamping disciplinary procedures and added special requirements on how to conduct hiring and promotional tests.
About that time, white firefighters filed suit in federal court, contending that women and minorities who scored lower on civil service tests were promoted ahead of them. The issue revolved around a 1988 policy that allowed the department to "skip-promote" minorities and women who did as well on the tests as white men.
In the late 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court found that portion of the city's affirmative action plan violated the constitutional rights of white male firefighters.
Shortly after the ruling, Chief Dodd Miller stepped down as pressure rose from minority leaders who demanded a chief who could find innovative ways to deal with the high court's decision.
Some firefighters say many of the issues remain a source of conflict.
"When young people do make it through the fire academy and get placed in an all-white firehouse, they are basically set up for failure," Mr. Hankins said. "They are sniped at until they're gone so they don't make it. It's just horrendous."
But fire officials and the head of the department's largest association say several examples and information in the black firefighters lawsuit are either inaccurate, wrong or misleading.
Mr. Hankins, a former general counsel for the NAACP and a lawyer in the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division, said the facts in the lawsuit are based on what his clients told him. He added that if there are errors, he would amend it. But he added that there are other explosive allegations that he expects to add to the lawsuit.
For example, the lawsuit says Dallas Fire-Rescue has not hired an African-American female firefighter in about 15 years.
It's actually been about 11 years, Lt. Lavender said.
Five black women have been hired as firefighters in the last 15 years, three of whom remain with the department. There have also been 13 black women hired as fire prevention officers, fire officials said.
Lt. Lavender acknowledges that the department lags in hiring enough women but says it is extremely difficult to attract them into the fire service. Woman represent about 4 percent of the department's firefighting personnel.
The lawsuit accuses the fire department of engaging in "discriminatory hiring practices against qualified African-American candidates that make application for employment." Minor infractions are overlooked for whites, but not for blacks, it says.
Fire officials note that the department's two recruiters are black and Hispanic, and they say the last three captains over the personnel department have been black.
Shawn Gary, the black firefighter association's president, says just having people of color working in recruiting isn't enough.
"You've got to have policies that allow you to recruit these people," he said.
Currently, about 62 percent of the department's firefighters are white, 21 percent black and 14 percent Hispanic, virtually the same as when former Fire Chief Steve Abraira became the city's top firefighter in 2000.
The lawsuit also says Mr. Gary was a victim of discrimination because he was denied his request to transfer to arson investigations "without being given any reason."
Fire officials say Mr. Gary was not qualified for the transfer because typically only lieutenants and above are considered for such positions, although some firefighters are transferred into the unit when health problems prevent them from performing the usual firefighter duties.
"There are other people in arson investigations that are not lieutenants," Mr. Gary said.
Capt. Mike Buehler, president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, which represents more than 1,000 of Dallas Fire-Rescue's roughly 1,600 firefighters, said he believes there have been "isolated incidents" of discrimination.
He said the lawsuit seems like a rehash of complaints that arose during the tenure of Mr. Abraira, who resigned almost a year ago after being pressured to do so by City Manager Mary Suhm.
"I don't know how this would hurt Abraira at this point," he said. Mr. Abraira could not be reached for comment.
Eddie Burns, who came from Fort Worth, became Dallas' first black chief in April. But a new chief doesn't mitigate the problems, Mr. Gary said.
"We tried to mediate with the city," said Mr. Gary. "They chose not to respond, and this is just the next step.
"Are we supposed to ignore that?"
Here are examples of discrimination against black and female firefighters alleged in the lawsuit:
Discrimination in hiring: The lawsuit alleges that a Hispanic chief "exhibited unprofessional conduct and acted in a rude and hostile manner" toward a black man when he interviewed him for a job with the fire department. The man was not hired.
Discrimination in performance evaluations: The lawsuit alleges that a black firefighter was denied a promotion after "he failed an illegally given test on two occasions."
Discrimination in training: The lawsuit alleges that white employees of the fire department made calls to area departments "blackballing" a fire recruit who had filed a lawsuit accusing the department of discriminatory treatment.
Discrimination in wages: The lawsuit alleges that the firefighters at Station 49, who are mostly black, are not treated the same as their counterparts at Stations 21 and 42, who are mostly white, when it comes to overtime assignments. All personnel at the three stations have received Federal Aviation Administration training. Yet only the firefighters at Nos. 21 and 42 are allowed to work overtime at Station 21, at Dallas Love Field. Station 42 is next to the airport.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Dallas Morning News Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email , call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.
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08-09-2006, 02:37 PM #1
"You've got to have policies that allow you to recruit [minority] people"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!
08-09-2006, 02:49 PM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2005
- Las Vegas,Nevada
Somehow I just don't think we seem to have made much progress in human relations, err. race relations, err diversity, err whatever. At this point everybody is a minority.
08-09-2006, 03:29 PM #3
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
We should NOT be recruiting Whites, Blacks, Greens, or Reds. We should NOT be recruiting Women, or Men. We should not be recruiting Young, Old, Tall,Short, Fat, Thin, all of the above, or none of the above.
WE SHOULD BE RECRUITING FIREFIGHTERS!!
Sorry, That's MY opinion.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.
08-09-2006, 06:26 PM #4
actually, my question is why or how do you have policies to recruit certain people, especially when those in charge of the recruiting of members of said certain groups?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!
08-09-2006, 07:04 PM #5
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
We hire the best of the best.
I perssonally will work with anyone who can do the job. It doesn't matter what color or gender.
08-09-2006, 07:06 PM #6Originally Posted by FB1138Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."
08-09-2006, 08:57 PM #7I am a highly trained professional and can find my :: expletive deleted:: with either hand in various light conditions.
08-10-2006, 12:52 PM #8
I find the fact that they have a BLACK FFs union too be discriminatory. Of course Im sure the members dont see it that way.
I wonder what they would say if someone started a WHITE FFs union. Im sure whatever the comment, it would come through thier attorney.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
08-10-2006, 01:08 PM #9I find the fact that they have a BLACK FFs union too be discriminatory.
Well then, you will be labeled a racist, just like the rest of us who think the same. This type of garbage is all too common place today. I live with a chapter of this group every workday. The majority of what this group does, and claims is completely baseless.
I think the people pushing this type of an agenda might be surprised how accepted minorities would be if all substandard hiring practices were eliminated, and all people were hired based on test scores and merit, and on an even playing field.
I have also seen firsthand how these ‘recruiting drives’ work. What are you supposed to do if people just don’t want to work as firefighters? Of course though, we do have unrealistic expectations like showing up for work on time, and staying drug free while employed.
08-10-2006, 02:49 PM #10Originally Posted by hwoods
A-Freeking-men!!!!!I.A.C.O.J. "The Cork"
08-10-2006, 08:50 PM #11
You know what's ironic?
Those who say that the exam is too tough for minorities to pass
passed it themselves!
Millions of dollars have been spent nationwide to recruit in the minority communities. The minority community has not responded... what does that say to you?
They don't want the job!"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."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
08-10-2006, 09:01 PM #12Originally Posted by pvfire424IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: Will the dead horse please report to the forums.(thanks Motown)
RAY WAS HERE 08/28/05
LETHA' FOREVA' ! 010607
I'm sorry, I haven't been paying much attention for the last 3 hours.....what were we discussing?
"but I guarentee you I will FF your arse off" from>
08-10-2006, 10:39 PM #13
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
Why do the Lt. say that the department does not hire enough women?
How the hell do you determine how much is enough, why does the makeup of a department even matter. I would trade an air headed, wimpy white guy for a gay female Somolian any day of the week provided she had a good head on her shoulders and the muscle to do the job.
My dept. has one of the highest percentages of women I have ever herd of and it is not because we had a recruiting effort, its because they wanted the job and could do it (most of them).
This stuff is insane, crazy, dumb!
Side note: I once had a bumper sticker that read "kick their ***, take their gass". The only person ever to confront me about how "offensive" it was was an honest to God, card carrying member of the ACLU!
Lammrover"Plan for the worst, hope for the best"
FF/EMT: Nimishillen Township FD
Fire/EMS/Police Dispatcher: CenCom
Student: Stark State C.O.T.
08-10-2006, 11:50 PM #14
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
Arent we all brothers
I have a ? why would we even ????? how many minorities should we hire it does not matter we need to be hiring FIREFIGTHERS point blank we are all equal except for our traininig experience years in the fire sevice and so on that is the only thing that should seperate us. But no society says that it is a black, white ,woman, man ,issue and everybody falls into it which if you ask me is bull$%^#!!!! We should come together not drift apart. The media would love anything more than to make the fire dept front page whether its bad or good. I am a firefighter not a black firefighter ,white firefighter, woman firefighter or man firefighter. I AM JUST PLAN OLD ***** KICKIN SMOKE EATIN SAVIN LIVES FIREFIGHTER!!!!!!!!!
08-11-2006, 05:40 AM #15Originally Posted by hwoodsJason Knecht
Altoona Fire Dept.
IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!
08-11-2006, 10:11 AM #16Originally Posted by hwoods
After thinking about your statement, I DO have one problem with it.
You should NOT be sorry for this opinion !!!!!
I'm NOT sorry, I share this very same opinion !!I.A.C.O.J. "The Cork"
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