Saturday, April 11, 2009

Justices to Hear White Firefighters’ Bias Claims

Nation: This is one of the dumber A.A actions ever taken to fill a job slot.

Frank Ricci has been a firefighter here for 11 years, and he would do just about anything to advance to lieutenant.

The last time the city offered a promotional exam, he said in a sworn statement, he gave up a second job and studied up to 13 hours a day. Mr. Ricci, who is dyslexic, paid an acquaintance more than $1,000 to read textbooks onto audiotapes. He made flashcards, took practice tests, worked with a study group and participated in mock interviews.

Mr. Ricci did well, he said, coming in sixth among the 77 candidates who took the exam. But the city threw out the test, because none of the 19 African-American firefighters who took it qualified for promotion. That decision prompted Mr. Ricci and 17 other white firefighters, including one Hispanic, to sue the city, alleging racial discrimination.

...Blacks passed at roughly half the rate of whites and ended up low on the ranked list of possible promotion candidates.. Under the city charter’s “rule of three,” as positions became available they had to be offered to one of the top three candidates then on the list.

In practice, this meant that no black firefighters would have been eligible for the available promotions to lieutenant. After a series of contentious hearings, the city’s Civil Service Board deadlocked by a 2-to-2 vote on whether to certify the lieutenant’s test and a similar one for captain. The tie had the effect of rejecting the tests.


Here is the unintended result of trying to promote via race and not on merit. Firefighters are high on my list of wanting the best regardless of race being hired. If I am in a burning building or my family is in danger I am not going to give a damn about the color of their skin. It is ridiculous for legitimate tests to be thrown out because the desired result did not happen.

Then you have black organizations trying to justify the whole thing and just making matters worse.

John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., which filed a brief supporting the city, said the case, Ricci v. DeStefano, No. 07-1428, must be understood against the backdrop of what he described as pervasive racial discrimination in firefighting and the pitfalls of thinking that a test can capture the qualities needed for leadership in life-or-death situations.

“Firefighting is a skilled job where all of the skills are learned on the job,” Mr. Payton said. “It’s a really good job, and it’s been racially exclusive in most of our major cities.”

In a brief supporting the white firefighters, the National Association of Police Organizations saw the injection of racial politics into public safety. Promotion decisions should be based on merit, the group said. Race-neutral decisions foster camaraderie and a sense of fairness, it added, saying that people who work in public safety “are, in the main, effectively colorblind.”

But Donald Day, a representative of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, questioned the value of the New Haven test, which included written and oral components. “An individual’s ability to answer a multiple-choice exam,” Mr. Day told the city’s Civil Service Board, “does nothing but measure their ability to read and retain.”

There are more important values, he added. “Young black and Latino kids have every right,” he said, “to see black and Latino officers on those fire trucks that are riding through their community. They have every right to look for a role model.”


So a role model is more important than having the best qualified saving people's lives and property. How stupid does the NAACP and IABPFF come off? A multiple choice test, written and oral is not spewing out what you remember but a measure of how well you perform under pressure. This was a promotion test where someone will be in charge of others. No one has a right to be on a firetruck or promoted just because they are black or Latino.

Another thing.

The last time the city offered a promotional exam, he said in a sworn statement, he gave up a second job and studied up to 13 hours a day. Mr. Ricci, who is dyslexic, paid an acquaintance more than $1,000 to read textbooks onto audiotapes. He made flashcards, took practice tests, worked with a study group and participated in mock interviews.


He prepared for the test, what is the excuse for the 19 black candidates that ended on the low end of the results? Learn up or shut up.

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