City’s leaders must step up

August 6, 2010

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THE BIGGEST problem leading to the re-segregation of the Boston Fire Department is a lack of commitment of the city’s political leadership (“City firehouses still stuck in a racial divide,’’ Page A1, Aug. 1).

Allowing the segregation of firehouses is a permissive action on the part of the fire commissioner and the mayor. There are a number of tools available to a concerned administration to address this issue. If the different races are uncomfortable working together, that means the city has allowed a hostile work environment to exist. The city has a moral obligation to maintain a congenial work environment, and it has a legal and moral obligation to prevent a hostile work environment.

It was only after the consent decree of Castro v. Beecher that the Boston Fire Department began hiring qualified black and Hispanic firefighters in significant numbers. The court action became necessary because the political leadership lacked the will to provide equal opportunity to all Boston citizens.

The Bradley v. City of Lynn decision in 2006 required that cities provide nondiscriminatory firefighter applicant exams. The lawsuit was filed because the leadership of cities lacked the will to provide fair and equal opportunity to applicants.

Boston’s leadership must muster the courage to take all reasonable steps to promote diversity. The result should be that all uniformed public safety departments create a workforce, throughout all employment levels, that reflects Boston’s population. Workplaces must be ensured to be free from harassment and intimidation. If the city’s leadership does its job and seeks to represent all Boston citizens, further lawsuits will become unnecessary.

Juan M. Cofield
NAACP, New England Area Conference
West Roxbury

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