The Black Firefighters Association has asked for a one-year extension of an agreement designed to increase the number of minority firefighters in the Annapolis Fire Department.
Five years ago, the City Council accepted a court-supervised consent decree to increase the percentage of minorities in the 88-member department from 11 percent to 25 percent by the end of this year. Fifteen percent -- or a total of 13 -- of the department's firefighters are women or members of minority groups. About one-third of Annapolis residents are black.
But BFA President Tony Spencer says a host of reasons, including low hiring during poor economic times, the attrition of black officers and difficulty in finding qualified and interested candidates have left the department well short of its goal.
"One of the biggest mistakes in minority hiring is when they just hire people to fill spots. It's no use just throwing numbers out there. If people get the impression that a person is being hired just because they are black, theywill feel uneasy and that doesn't help anybody," the 17-year veteranfire inspector said. Spencer suggested that the department should concentrate on recruitment programs to find good candidates.
The department employs nine black male firefighters, one black female, one Asian male and two white female officers. Five other black officers have resigned, transferred or retired in the past five years, Spencer said.
Last month, the city Police Department and the Black Officer's Association agreed to allow a similar 7-year-old consent decree to expire as the number of blacks had increased to 26, or 23 percent of the 112-member force.
"We're not saying things are peachy keen, just that there has been an improvement," BOA President George Kelley said last week.
Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-7, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee, said the fire department has had troublecompeting with larger, better-paying departments.
"We are always in competition with other jurisdictions, many of which pay more moneyfor technicians. And when you lose five (minority members), its tough to catch up," she said.
The City Council will consider the extension of the consent decree at its Monday meeting. DeGraff said she does not anticipate any difficulty in extending it.