Fire Department to promote 8, increasing minority role at top Shift commander to become first black assistant chief

July 22, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Fire Department plans to promote eight of its members today, bolstering the minority representation at the top of the command chain.

Shift Commander Carl E. McDonald will become assistant chief of support services, making him the only black among four assistant chiefs under Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr., who is black.

With the promotions, the department has re-created the position McDonald has taken after eliminating it a year ago.

The lack of minority representation in the Fire Department, particularly in the upper ranks, has been an acknowledged problem for years.

Of the 1,700 members, 27 percent are African-American. But only one of four assistant chiefs is black and one battalion chief -- out of 32 -- is black. Black commanders head the medical bureau and the safety office.

"These are positive moves with regards to promotions," said Capt. Stephan G. Fugate, president of officer's union Local 964 and a frequent critic of Williams. "There has been nothing short of a drought going on for two years."

Fugate said changes in the city's pension plan encouraged older employees to stay on the job longer, blocking many qualified employees from moving up. He said there hasn't been a promotion high in the command chain since 1996.

McDonald, who could not be reached for comment, takes the place of Assistant Chief Clyde Smith, who retired a year ago. His duties overseeing emergency medical services were merged with those of the chief who also handled the fire suppression units.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a department spokesman, said Williams decided the workload was too great and he returned to having four assistant chiefs. The other chiefs oversee administrative and technical services.

Another promotion apparently settles a 4-year-old lawsuit filed by Battalion Chief Michael Caplan, who according to union officials was first on a promotional list in 1994 for the rank of shift commander, but was passed over when the department eliminated the position he was slated to get.

Fugate said Caplan's suit has lingered for four years. "This promotion is a settlement of his lawsuit," Fugate said.

Caplan, 54, and his lawyer could not be reached yesterday for comment.

The other promotions are Capt. Henry T. Wenger to battalion chief; Lt. William J. Hoffman to captain; Emergency Vehicle Driver Mark S. Lemmon to lieutenant; Firefighters Richard Parker III and Stephen Dulin Jr. to pump operator; and Firefighter Eric S. Peeples to Emergency Vehicle Driver.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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