PHILLY FIRE OFFICERS WIN REVERSE DISCRIMINATION CASE

July 1, 2009

pfd patch

The City of Philadelphia this year quietly paid out $275,000 to settle claims by five white firefighters that they had been discriminated against in the promotion process.

Not only did the city pay five lieutenants between $30,000 and $40,000 each in the January settlement of a 2007 federal civil-rights lawsuit, but the Fire Department also agreed to address the officers’ complaints that the promotional exams they took in 2005 were skewed against them in favor of minority candidates.

The settlement suggests that the city gave some credibility to the officers’ claims – including one that the city purposely brought in minority officers to administer the tests.

The settlement was marked “confidential,” but the city released it to The Inquirer under the state Right to Know Act.

The settlement allowed the city to avoid a lengthy litigation and appeals process such as the City of New Haven, Conn., experienced in a 2004 lawsuit by 20 white firefighters who challenged their city’s promotion process. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor.

The Philadelphia case underscores a similar, ongoing racial tension in the department in regard to promotions and how the tests are given and scored.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers could not be reached for comment. Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety, said he was not familiar with details of the lawsuit and would not comment until he had reviewed it.

The Philadelphia lieutenants – Francis J. Hannan, Joseph Lee Jr., Gerard Kots, Michael Wellock, and Thomas G. Leonard – sued the city in September 2007, claiming that they had been “systematically or otherwise downgraded” because of their race during the oral portion of the July 2005 fire captain’s examination.

None of the five was promoted at the time – Hannan and Lee made captain in subsequent promotion rounds.

In the suit, the men alleged that the “raters” – fire officers from other cities brought in to administer tests, a practice in most departments – were told before the tests that the department “was ‘in dire’ need of minority and female fire officers,” according to the complaint.

Of the 14 raters brought in for the 2005 captains test, 10 were African American, some of them members of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, which has advanced the cause of blacks in the firehouses nationally, according to the complaint.

The five white lieutenants lost points for such things as lack of “appropriate eye contact,” mistakenly addressing a female rater as “Sir,” and for “being too wordy,” according to the complaint. LINK

I am well aware of this lawsuit and settlement, but until it hit the open media I have withheld my comments. Now it’s plain to see that the problem of reverse racism is alive and well in major American cities like Philadelphia.

If you thought New Haven was an isolated case, think again. Institutional reverse racism has been a growing problem for many years. It is fostered by the Left in their never ending quest for “Social Justice” and “Social Engineering.” It is often disguised by terms like “Diversity” and “Awareness.” It is force fed to us by zealots in personnel departments and used to cover the inequities of “Protected Classes.”

I have been through the promotional process about five times in my career. I have found it to be arbitrary, subjective and biased. I have also worked hard to overcome these issues by being 100% as professional and knowledgeable as I can be. In other words, when it comes to firefighting I have to make sure I know my sh*t twice as good as other people in order to leave the raters with no excuse to pass me over.

Others have not been so lucky. I know every one of the men mentioned in this article. To a man, they are the cream of the crop and should have been treated fairly. The City of Philadelphia’s admission and settlement is proof positive that racism is alive and well in our department, and I suspect many others as well.

For years while liberals have preached level playing fields and diversity they have worked behind the scenes to exclude the best and brightest – often by illegal methods. Right now four of the top five command positions in the PFD are held by minority officers.

These are not new allegations. The administration of the PFD specifically asked for and got the testing firm they wanted last time around, even at a higher cost to taxpayers. You can draw your own conclusions as to why a city in dire financial straits spends more money than it should just to administer a promotional exam. The personnel department makes up the written test simply by flipping through a textbook and picking random questions. How difficult is that to comprehend? It is the oral portion of the exam where all bets are off.

This issue has serious implications for me, as I am waiting on the test date to be announced for the next Battalion Chief’s exam. I have to prepare myself not only professionally but socially. I have to worry not only about the exam questions but the raters’ impartiality as well. These issues simply have no place in our supposed colorblind society. Does anyone think I could do my job if I took race into account every time I answered a call? I spend every shift serving the PEOPLE who call us. Everyone gets the same standard of care the situation warrants, without exception.

It’s time we start waking up and demanding an end to racial preferences and quotas of any sort. There is simply no reason in this day and age to justify using someone’s race, gender, ethnicity or any other non-job-related criteria in hiring or promotion. It is time to make sure the best, brightest and hardest working PEOPLE are rewarded.

Advertisements

TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

March 7, 2009

cce-60044

Today is a personal down day for me. After two years of anticipation and anxiety it’s apparent that I’m not going to get promoted to Chief this time around after all. Today marks the end of the two year run for the current promotional list. There was an announcement made in the past few days that the list was dead along with a corresponding announcement of a new test (Which I have already signed up to take).

Every two years the department gives promotional tests. Every candidate that passes gets ranked on the list. The Department promotes off the list in numerical order as vacancies open up. Usually they allow large amounts of vacancies so they can promote groups instead of individuals. This was my first time taking the test for Battalion Chief. My goal was to finish in the top twenty five. My competition was pretty tough especially at that level. I’m going up against a lot of veteran guys with many more years of experience than myself. Many of the guys even “Look” the part of the grizzled old Fire Chief who barks out commands calmly while the world burns down around them. I don’t fit that image so much, (At least not yet). I came out twenty four. I met my personal goal.

As we looked at the list of Chiefs scheduled to retire over the last two years the consensus was that I had a serious shot. Smart money was that they would promote twenty five. That was before the economy of the entire world collapsed and Mayor Nutter closed fire companies. So as it ends up I am left number three.

I know there are lots of people who are out of work. But part of the reason I chose the Fire Service was stability. There are many reasons why we choose a given path in life. I could have stayed in school and done things differently and made a lot more money. I certainly have the ability. But ability isn’t always a substitute for desire. Especially when you have to get up every morning and go to work. I guess part of what attracts someone to a career as a firefighter plays a part in their desire for stability. It makes sense. I know people who have trade jobs. For them getting laid off is part of the deal. I couldn’t stand that.

At one point in my career I actually left the Fire Department to become a State Trooper. It was difficult to make the transition. I thought I would be happier. Ed Rendell was destroying city employees as usual and the economics of working for the State vs. the City really appealed to me. But I discovered along the way that I didn’t have the disposition or the temperament to deal with criminals day in and day out. I see things much too black and white. In the end I returned to the Fire Department where I belong.

So now I will have to get back into the books and go through the process again. This time I will have to come out much higher in order to have any shot. Top ten no less. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll put the time and hard work in because in the end this is what I do. One of these days I’m going to get that third horn.


SHOP TALK

August 21, 2008


Tonight there is a promotion ceremony being held in our Department. Many firefighters / officers will be getting promoted to the next higher rank. This is great news for all those who worked so hard. Congratulations guys and good luck. Specifically five Captains will become Chiefs. This is good news for me personally because it means I am now three on the list. Since the list expires at the end of March there is still a fair amount of time left. It also means that I will be wracked by anxiety over the next six months as I sit on this fence waiting for a phone call that may or may not come.

That’s the worst part of being a civil service employee. No matter how good or bad you are, you have little control over things like promotions. If the Department gets to me I’m in. If not I have to take the test over again. That means starting from scratch and going through the entire process again. Then waiting two years while the list runs it’s course. It’s emotionally and mentally draining. Many guys just get worn out and quit taking the tests. I understand their frustration. I hope I don’t have to do it again. I have been filling in so much for my Chief over the last year I don’t think I’ll ever be any more prepared. But it’s out of my hands now. The wait officially begins.


INSIDE THE PFD

December 6, 2007

Fire lieutenants claim racial discrimination in lawsuit

By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer

The Concerned American Fire Fighters Association’s Philadelphia chapter has been successful in pressuring the city to adhere to a hiring consent decree. Now, CAFFA is demanding that the city change its policy when it comes to promotions. In both cases, CAFFA maintains that the city has been favoring the hiring and promotion of blacks over whites.

Back in January 1974, Club Valiants, an organization of black Philadelphia firefighters, filed a class-action complaint against city officials in power at the time — Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, Fire Commissioner Joe Rizzo, Managing Director Hillel Levinson and others, alleging discrimination against minorities in hiring and promotions. In hiring and promotions, firefighters are selected from eligibility lists based on their scores on multiple-choice tests. In the 1970s, then-City Solicitor Sheldon Albert argued that it would be unfair to impose a quota by ignoring the test rankings. U.S. District Judge Louis C. Bechtle disagreed and ultimately ruled that at least 12 percent of fire department classes consist of black recruits. CAFFA — whose membership consists largely, but not exclusively, of white firefighters — has hiring documentation dating to 1997 that shows the fire department regularly exceeded the federal court decree. The department did so, CAFFA said, by simply skipping over higher-scoring whites to hire blacks.

Due perhaps to pressure by CAFFA, the department has generally abided by the decree since the class that started on Jan. 3, 2005. Having basically won that battle, CAFFA is now supporting a recently filed lawsuit against the city by five white fire lieutenants who allege discrimination when they sought a promotion to captain. The plaintiffs are Francis J. Hannan, of Torresdale; Joseph Lee Jr., of Rhawnhurst; Gerard Kots, of Lexington Park; Michael Wellock, of Roxborough; and Thomas G. Leonard, of the Far Northeast.

The plaintiffs took and passed a written promotional test in July 2005. They were invited to take the second portion of the test, an oral examination, in November of that year. The overall score is made up of 45 percent of both the written and oral exams and 10 percent seniority. None of the plaintiffs were promoted to captain, and they argue that the oral test was improperly and unfairly administered. Their attorney, Art Bugay, had no comment and discouraged his clients from commenting.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, a former president of the Valiants, declined to comment. Mike Bresnan — a Torresdale resident, president of the local CAFFA chapter and treasurer of firefighters Local 22 — backs the lawsuit. “It’s real subjective,” he said of the oral exam, “and basically gives minorities higher scores.” The five lieutenants filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, alleging involvement in the manipulation of the outcomes of the promotional test by Club Valiants and the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters. The EEOC gave the plaintiffs the right to sue.

The lawsuit alleges that the city requested a preference for out-of-town minority firefighters to rate the candidates in the oral exam. In the test in question, the suit claims that 10 of the 14 raters were black. In addition, the suit contends that one or more of the raters was instructed by a fire administrator that the department was “in dire” need of minority and female officers. At the end of the oral exam, nine of the 11 black candidates placed in the top 24 and were promoted to captain.

The lawsuit plainly states that the raters gave higher scores to blacks than whites to improve their chances of promotion. “It is believed and averred that African-American candidates for the oral portion of the Fire Captain’s Test received higher marks or grades and were upgraded on account of their race,” the lawsuit says. Unsuccessful promotion candidates can appeal, but the interviews are not videotaped. They are audio recorded and, according to the suit, the quality is often poor.

CAFFA hopes that Mayor-elect Michael Nutter replaces Ayers as commissioner with someone it believes will change the policy of oral promotional tests. A Nutter spokeswoman did not respond to a request about the commissioner’s future. Bresnan said the Local 22 elections in May proved that the CAFFA view is popular within the department. All three CAFFA candidates were elected, while three members of the Valiants all placed last. Bresnan said the fire department needs a morale boost, explaining that the hiring and promotional practices have angered white firefighters. “It’s creating a lot of hostility in the department,” he said. The courts have not permitted any kind of quotas or set-asides in promotions, but Bresnan believes the oral exams are unfairly increasing the number of blacks in high-ranking positions so city and fire department officials can guarantee a more diverse work force. “They’ll do anything to accomplish that, and this is their alternative,” he said of the oral exam.

Bresnan and his group believe the city is determined to increase the number of rank-and-file minorities and those in supervisory positions in the fire department to at least 50 percent. “CAFFA is not against the fire department being half black,” he said. “We’re against lowering standards.” ••

There are times when I just can’t comment on things. This is one of them.