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WEB POSTED 10-08-2002

 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
N.Y. Fire Dept. wants more Black recruits

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com)—The New York City Fire Department extended the deadline for applying to take the written exam to Oct. 31 because the goal of recruiting more "minorities" has not been met, according to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. The written exam is open to people between the ages of 17-29.

Commissioner Scoppetta said 20 percent of the 7,000 applicants are Black and Latino. The city has put together a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, "Heroes Wanted," but the targeted community is not responding, he said.

"This is a city that has more than 50 percent people of color, and the fire department is 93 percent White and male," Mr. Scoppetta said Sept. 22, in a speech delivered at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens. Something is wrong with that picture, he said.

Mr. Scoppetta has been attending services at Black churches around the city, sharing the department’s recruiting message. The department needs more minorities and women in a bad way, he said.

"We’ve just got to get out into the community and get the word out," the commissioner said while speaking to the congregation at Harlem’s famous Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Lt. Paul Washington, president of the Vulcan Society, a Black firefighter’s group, said that the department would be successful in the recruitment drive if they had more Black firefighters on the recruitment team. He said there were only 10 people assigned to the team in a city of eight million, adding that the Vulcans have been going into the community with their own recruitment team.

"We are glad that they extended the time, because we are concerned about the low turnout in the Black community. The percentage of Blacks applying is very low at eight percent," Lt. Washington said.

He said that in 1999, the last time the test was offered, 25 percent of those applying were Black. According to the Vulcans, only 2.7 percent of the department’s 11,000 member force is Black, and that is after replacements for the 343 firefighters who were killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 were hired.

It was January 10, 1919 when the first Black fireman reported for work. By 1937, their ranks had grown to 20, and by 1940, there were 50. In 1980, there were 600, but in the 1990s, because of retirement, the number fell below 300. Twelve Black firefighters died at the WTC.

Calls to the fire department Public Information office were not returned.

—Saeed Shabazz

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