Firefighters Assess Race Relations

February 26, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Spurred by two complaints of racial harassment, the Annapolis Fire Department has agreed to sponsor sensitivity-training workshops and strengthen efforts to recruit black firefighters.

The city's 79 firefighters will attend two sessions on racial sensitivity and human relations, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said Monday night, in announcing the conclusion of the city's investigation.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, who brought the complaints of alleged racial slurs and discrimination to the mayor's attention, said he was satisfied by the outcome. The Ward 3 Democrat and other city officials met with representatives of the Fire Department and the Black Firefighters Association last week to settle the issues raised by two black firefighters.

"Both complaints have been addressed to their conclusion, with all parties being satisfied," the mayor said about the two-hour meeting. "As human beings, we are all capable of making mistakes. The good news is that we still have people of good will, who can and do make decisions based on the mutual welfare of all."

The FireDepartment is under a 1986 federal order to recruit and promote moreblacks.

Responding to the recent complaints, the department has promised to "do all in its power to meet, if not exceed, the consent decree -- not because we have to, but because it's the right thing to do," Hopkins said.

Four of the city's seven black firefighters filed a lawsuit in 1985 alleging the department discriminated in hiring,promotions and testing procedures. In settling the suit, the city agreed to aggressively recruit minorities and increase the percentage of black firefighters to reflect the percentage of blacks living in Annapolis.

The city decided to voluntarily continue the consent decree until the percentage changes more substantially. About 10 percent of the city's firefighters are black, although the city's population is more than 30 percent black.

A white firefighter who learned that the consent decree had been extended responded with a racial slur, the first complaint said. The second complaint involved a firefighter's attempt to train on equipment at the Eastport station.

The FireDepartment attributed the second complaint to a misunderstanding andreaffirmed that all firefighters have equal training opportunities, Gilmer said.

Following the mayor's announcement Monday night, the City Council spent three hours listening to an application by Amoco Inc. to open a gas station and convenience store on Forest Drive.

Owners of two nearby gas stations and a liquor store opposed the request. Armed with a videotape of traffic at Forest Drive near ChinquapinRound Road, they warned the council that the store would create safety problems in the area.

Amoco representatives countered that limiting the station's hours to from 6 a.m. to midnight would be unfair, because several Annapolis convenience stores are open 24 hours a day.

The council also heard an application by a Virginia couple seeking to reopen Reynolds Tavern, a Colonial inn at Church Circle.

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