Friday, September 07, 2007

Update On St. Louis Fire Department Controversy

High Drama Being Played Out In St. Louis City Government

This is an update to the previous posting on this story from yesterday. Things have heated up considerably.

Mayor Francis Slay & City Public Safety Director to Fire Chief Sherman George:

"Make the necessary promotions by September 14th" (or else)..."Failure to follow this directive will subject you to disciplinary action".... "This is to be taken as a direct order"

-- From a leaked letter to the Fire Chief

For those who are unfamiliar with this story, let me attempt to provide just a little context.

There are two separate but related issues surrounding the Fire Chief & the Fire Department regarding examinations.

One issue has to do with a promotions exam for Fire Fighters hoping to become commanders. The Chief- Sherman George, and Black Fire Fighters believe that the promotions test was biased against minority candidates. Therefore, the Chief decided not to make promotions based on the test results, even though a Federal Judge ruled that the test & the results were valid. This issue has been going back and forth for the past couple of years in St. Louis.

The other issue surrounding the St. Louis Fire Department has to do with an applicant exam, which some Black Fire Fighters believe was biased & too difficult, although it is a standard test given across the Country. 70% of Fire Fighter applicants (about 1000 of the approx. 1300 who took the exam) failed the most recent test, prompting the city to scrap the results & to look for an easier exam.

For those who are not familiar with the racial divide in St. Louis- it is one of the most segregated cities in the United States. This divide carries over into the infrastructure of city government.

The St. Louis Fire Department has a Black Fire Fighters Group called FIRE (Firefighters Institute for Racial Equality), and a predominantly White Fire Fighters Union- The International Association of Firefighters. The City's Police Department is divided along similar racial lines. The two groups have been at odds over testing and standards for several years, with the Black Fire Fighters accusing the White Union of trying to make it difficult for them to succeed on the Department. On the other hand, the White Fire Fighters accuse the Black group of not meeting basic standards and are upset about the prospect of having testing standards "dumbed down" in order to accommodate minorities.



Below are 4 Reports from the Various Parties Weighing in on the Ultimatum:
(from KMOX radio)

1. Paul Harris talks with Mayor Slay's Chief of Staff, Jeff Rainford, about a direct order issued to Fire Chief Sherman George telling him to make all promotions in the department by 9/14 or face disciplinary action. There are more than 30 Battalion Chief & Captain positions waiting to be filled.
Listen to Segment

2. The Fire Chiefs Attorney Speaks!
Carol Daniel speaks with Tom Blumenthal, attorney for Fire Chief Sherman George, about the ultimatum he has received from City Hall ordering him to fill all promotions for over 30 unfilled positions of Battalion Chief and Captain in the St. Louis Fire Department.

Listen To Segment

3. Paul Harris talks with Chris Molitor, president of Local 73 of the Firefighters Union (Predominantly White Group) about the controversy swirling around Chief Sherman George and a new ultimatum about promotions from City Hall.

Listen To Segment

4. Paul Harris talks with Percy Green III, VP of the black firefighters group FIRE (Firefighters Institute For Racial Equality) about City Hall's demands that Chief Sherman George make all the promotions to fill the unfilled positions in the fire department, or face disciplinary action.

Listen To Segment


Hear a local "Reporters Roundtable Discussion" on this issue from KWMU radio in St. Louis.


Don Marsh (former TV anchor)


Mike Fitzgerald- Reporter, Belleville News-Democrat
Repps Hudson- Columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Alvin Reid- City Editor for The St. Louis American (One of the top Black Newspapers in the Country)

Listen Here (discussion begins at the 12:05 mark and ends at approx. fast forward to the 12 min. point).


UDPATE: St. Louis Fire Chief Defies Mayor


Related Reports

Report From KMOV TV (CBS)

Report from KSDK TV (NBC)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

There is a large flaw here! There is no "White Union." Every member of the department is in the International Association of Fire Fighters. Every black and white firefighter are part of the IAFF. Do you really think a "white" union would be allowed to exist? No! Why we allow a black one then...who knows. To me any type of sorting out along color lines is wrong, union or otherwise.