Massachusetts Cop Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Founder of MassCops
Joined
·
6,401 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Report: some cities and towns have not met hiring obligations
The Associated Press

BOSTON- Most Massachusetts cities and towns ordered to diversify their police and fire departments in the 1970s have met their racial hiring goals, but 17 police and fire departments in 12 cities and towns have not.

Chelsea, Lawrence and Holyoke, with black and Hispanic populations ranging from 45 percent to 65 percent, have police and fire departments that are only about 20 percent minority, making them the furthest from reaching their goals of "parity" with their cities' minority populations, according to a Boston Sunday Globe analysis.

Fire departments in Cambridge and Newton, and police departments in New Bedford and Winthrop, have reached racial parity, but are still abiding by the consent decrees and hiring based on race. Six white firefighters sued Newton in federal court last month, alleging that Newton's policy is unconstitutional because the city has reach parity.

Similar lawsuits against Boston led to federal court judges throwing out the city's hiring policy for police in November, and the fire department hiring policy in 2003.

Many departments under the statewide consent decree are struggling to keep up with the minority populations they serve, which have grown quickly since the two consent decrees that originally covered 151 cities and towns statewide.

Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in Massachusetts has doubled, with much of the increase in urban areas like Springfield, Boston, and Lawrence. Moreover, the court orders focused only on blacks and Hispanics, and did not consider Asians, whose population has risen more than fourfold in that period.

In Lawrence, 18 percent of the city's population was black and Hispanic in 1980. Now, it's 65 percent, while the city's police and fire departments remain only about 20 percent minority.

Police Chief John J. Romero, the city's first Hispanic police chief, wants to eliminate that gap.

"The police department should reflect the community it serves," he said. "Not that a white officer wouldn't do a good job - that's not it at all. But a lot of people in Lawrence don't know English, and the more Hispanics you bring on the job, the better. They know the language, they know the culture."

The consent decrees were the result of lawsuits against police departments by minorities claiming hiring discrimination. The two federal consent decrees were applied to any cities and towns that belonged to the state's Civil Service system, requiring them to take steps to achieve racial diversity.

The consent decrees applied to any city or town with a minority population of at least 1 percent. That applied to 57 fire departments, and 95 police departments.

Since the two decrees, 130 police and fire departments have hired enough minorities and requested that the state Human Resource Department remove their names from the list. The Cambridge Police Department, and the Attleboro Police and Fire Departments were the most recent to be stricken from the list.

After police and fire departments are deemed to have achieved parity and are taken off the list, there's no oversight over the racial balance in the departments.

Supporters of the consent decrees worry that as departments are released, minority hiring will stop being a priority.

"It's an ongoing obligation to keep a diverse police and fire department," said Nadine Cohen, an attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has closely monitored the Boston cases. "If you're not vigilant about it... the 30 or so years progress we've made can all be done away with rather quickly."

Critics say the decrees are a product of the 70s, and should be updated or scrapped.

"The whole idea of having a quota system for hiring is pretty foreign," said Harold L. Lichten, the attorney who won the recent lawsuits against Boston. "I could imagine a system by which additional consideration were given to minorities, because diversity is a good thing to have in a department. But right now that's one of the only considerations."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
135 Posts
Racial quotas unmet in Mass.

Seventeen police and fire departments in 12 cities and towns around Massachusetts fall short of the race-based hiring goals ordered 30 years ago by the federal courts, with many of the departments struggling to keep up with the fast-growing minority populations they serve, a Globe analysis has found.

Chelsea, Lawrence, and Holyoke -- with minority populations ranging from 45 to 65 percent -- remain the furthest from the goal of two mid-1970s consent decrees, which called for police and fire departments to reach ''parity" with the black and Hispanic populations in their cities. The police and fire departments in those three cities are about 20 percent minority.

Meanwhile, four other departments -- fire departments in Cambridge and Newton, and police departments in New Bedford and Winthrop -- have reached racial parity, but are still following the consent decrees and hiring based on race. Six white firefighter applicants filed suit in federal court last month alleging that Newton's race-based hiring policy is unconstitutional because its fire department has reached parity. Similar lawsuits led the federal courts to throw out Boston's hiring policy for its police department in November and for its fire department in March 2003.

The consent decrees, which originally covered 151 police and fire departments, have been in effect during a time of great demographic change in Massachusetts. From 1980 to 2000, the portion of blacks and Hispanics in Massachusetts has doubled, with most of the growth concentrated in urban centers like Springfield, Lawrence, and Boston. Furthermore, the court order focused on increasing the number of blacks and Hispanics in the departments -- and did not take into account Asians, whose numbers in Massachusetts more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2000.

Most of the cities and towns still under the consent decrees experienced big increases in black and Hispanic populations over the last two and a half decades. The portion of blacks and Hispanics in Chelsea, Lawrence, and Somerville, for example, more than tripled. In Lawrence, the portion jumped from 18 percent in 1980 to 65 percent in the 2000 Census.

While some city officials point out the difficulty of keeping up with their fast-changing population, supporters of the consent decrees argue that a more diverse population should provide a large pool of prospective minority employees.

Supporters also worry that, as departments are released from the decrees, minority hiring will not be a priority without an affirmative action policy.

''I don't think it's as simple as having a decree that has fulfilled its mission and now everyone can go back to doing business as they did before the consent decree," said Nadine Cohen, an attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who has closely monitored the Boston cases. ''It's an ongoing obligation to keep a diverse police and fire department. If we're not vigilant about it . . . the 30 or so years progress we've made can all be done away with rather quickly."

Under two separate federal court orders issued in the 1970s, dozens of cities and towns that belonged to the state's Civil Service system were required to take steps to achieve racial diversity in their police and firefighting forces. The new law applied to every community that had a minority population of at least 1 percent; it meant that 57 fire departments and 94 police departments had to adopt new rules in how they hire their employees.

Since then, 130 police and fire departments have hired enough minorities and requested that the state Human Resource Department remove them from the list, most recently the Cambridge Police Department and the police and fire departments in Attleboro. The state doesn't keep tabs on departments once they are taken off the list, though, so it is unclear whether the subsequent hiring has kept them at parity.

Little follow-up
There is no provision for making a department follow the decree again once they've been removed from the list, and no agency is appointed to monitor their demographics, according to Cohen. She said several groups, including her own and the Boston branch of the NAACP, are carefully monitoring the Boston police and fire departments but virtually no one is watching the hiring practices in other cities and towns.

Most of the departments still following the court orders do so by hiring one minority for every three nonminorities; Springfield is the only city still hiring on a one-to-one ratio.

When a chief is ready to hire new officers under the consent decree, he requests a list of applicants who have taken the civil service exam. The state returns the list ranking at the top one minority followed by three nonminorities. The department has to interview candidates in this order, and must provide the state with written reasons if it skips over an applicant. The process is meant to give minority candidates priority, but it doesn't require a department to hire a candidate if they are deemed unqualified.

By following this hiring practice, small departments in towns where minority populations were not signficantly increasing filled the qualifications of the decree quickly, many of them requesting the state to remove their departments in the 1980s. Some larger departments, however, have been unable to keep up with the changes in their increasingly diverse populations.

In Lawrence, for example, 18 percent of the city's population was black and Hispanic in 1980. Now, that figure is 65 percent. The city's police and fire departments are now only 20 percent minority, a disparity that the city's first Hispanic police chief, John J. Romero, wants to eliminate.

''The police department should reflect the community it serves," said Romero, who was hired as chief six years ago. ''Not that a white officer wouldn't do a good job -- that's not it at all. But a lot of people in Lawrence don't know English, and the more Hispanics you bring on the job, the better. They know the language, they know the culture."

The department has started recruiting Hispanics to take the civil service exam, broadcasting on a local Spanish radio station and offering prep courses at the Lawrence Public Library. It appears to be working: in the last five years, 32 percent of the new hires have been minorities, most of them Hispanic.

New generation
Romero said they are seeing greater numbers of minority hires in recent years in part because second-generation Hispanics living in Lawrence, who tend to be more educated and have a better command of English than their parents, are now applying for the positions. A decade ago, they couldn't even persuade Hispanics to take the exam.

''If you get them to take those exams, the numbers will go up," he said. ''You can't win the lotto if you don't buy a ticket, and you can't get a job if you don't take the test."

Still, Romero questions whether the department will ever mirror the community. The 156-member department would need 69 of the nonminority officers to become minority hires for the force to meet parity.

''We have a civil service process and it's competitive," he said. ''We don't have a lot of leeway. We get a list from civil service, and we have to follow that list. So this is going to take time."

Critics say the decrees are a product of the 1970s and either need to be updated or abolished. The 1970s suit resulted mainly as a conflict between blacks and whites. One of the court decisions, Castro v. Beecher, even identifies the plaintiffs as ''a class of Blacks and Spanish-speaking persons, hereafter for brevity sometimes called merely 'Blacks."'

''The whole idea of having a quota system for hiring is pretty foreign. In almost all cities and towns in the country they've stopped these practices," said Harold L. Lichten, the attorney who recently won the suits against Boston police and fire departments and is now suing Newton. ''I could envision a system by which additional consideration were given to minorities, because diversity is a good thing to have in a department. But right now that's one of the only considerations."

Lichten has argued for a so-called banding plan adopted by several other cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, and Bridgeport, Conn. The plan, which has been ruled constitutional by other courts, would allow officials to combine applicants with similar test scores into one pool and hire anyone from that group. Lichten contends that this method would be nondiscriminatory and would place more emphasis on merit-based hiring.

The decrees identify minorities only as blacks and Hispanics, neglecting groups such as Asians who have seen a large increase in some communities over the past decade.

''It's a sign of 30 years ago when it was adopted," said Nancy McArdle, a researcher at the Civil Rights Project at Harvard who last month published a report called ''Racial Equality and Opportunity in Metro Boston Job Markets."

Classification dilemma
The decrees also don't address the difficulties of categorizing people into one racial group. Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. of New Bedford, for example, said he's had difficulty classifying Cape Verdeans, who constitute nearly 6 percent of the city's police department.

''Some say they're black, some say they're Hispanic, and some say they're white," he said. ''I can't make that determination." Even if the city classifies Cape Verdeans as white, however, New Bedford has exceeded parity: 14.7 percent of the police department is black or Hispanic, compared with 14.6 percent of the city. Those numbers will be bolstered even more this week when the department plans to hire 39 more officers, 26 percent of whom are minorities.

Kalisz said there are no plans to ask the state to remove the city from the decree list. ''The preferential system hasn't been an issue here," he said. ''If anything, people have asked us to go further and hire more minorities."

Cambridge, which has exceeded parity in its fire department, plans to submit information to the state before its next hiring round, according to Michael Gardner, the city's personnel director.

The Framingham Fire Department is close to parity -- 15.6 percent of the 141-member department is black or Hispanic, compared with 16 percent of the town on the whole -- but the topic of removing itself from the decree hasn't yet come up, according to George P. King Jr., the town manager.

''This is not something we have discussed in any great length," he said. The decree ''has worked for us overall and we haven't had a problem with it. I'm sure there are individuals who may feel upset over this. But as a policy as a whole, this has worked for us."

A federal judge in November ruled that the Boston Police Department could no longer follow its policy of hiring one black or Hispanic firefighter for every white firefighter, because it had achieved racial parity at the entry level. A similar ruling last year by a federal appeals court found that the Boston Fire Department had also achieved racial balance and must abandon its affirmative-action hiring policy.

To remove themselves from the rules in the decrees, cities and towns must submit information to the state Human Resources Division and to an attorney at Foley, Hoag, and Eliot, the firm that represented the NAACP in the 1970s suit that triggered the consent decrees.

That process remains murky. One of the main issues is whether to include demographics of the entire department or just entry-level officers when deciding whether parity has been reached
 

·
Thread Killa
Joined
·
6,056 Posts
Re: Racial quotas unmet in Mass.

THe racial quota system was dumb, is dumb, and more than likely will be dumb forever.

I certainly understand what it was trying to do, it was a feel good PC move to try and make things "equal".... but you know what maybe a lot of minorities don't want to be cops or firemen. As well many first generation minorities are not in a position to even consider taking the civil service exam.

Imagine if basketball or golf, or the US olympic teams, or corporate America, the military, had to be at racial parity
 

·
Retired Fed, Active Special
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Bottom line is Affirmative Action WAS a good thing many years ago. I submit that with women/blacks/others serving on the Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs/Presidential Cabinet/Congress etc. it might be time to let go of quotas.
:wink:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
261 Posts
In my opinion, it all boils down to who can do a better job, who has more experience, and who did the best on whatever testing/interviewing was done for that particular position, not what color your skin is or what nationality you are.
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top