Updated 08/01/2011 11:25 PM
FDNY Discrimination Trial Begins
A federal judge began hearing about the city’s efforts to end discrimination in the fire department’s hiring practices Monday. NY1’s Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
Lieutenant Michael Marshall is a firefighter in Brooklyn. He takes issue with what he views as discrimination within the department.
"There's not a lot of overt racism anywhere anymore," said Marshall. "Nobody's being tarred and feathered. It's more of a subtle racism, and how do you know it's racism? You feel it in your gut."
He's vice president of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal black firefighter association suing the city with the Department of Justice in federal court over discriminatory hiring practices in the New York City Fire Department.
The judge ruled previously that the tests did, in fact, discriminate against blacks and Hispanics. Those groups together make up just nine percent of the department.
"In order to be a firefighter, one does not need to know the history of the department and nor does one need to be a volunteer firefighter," said John Coombs, president of the Vulcan Society.
The plaintiffs are arguing that the entire process is rigged in favor of whites. They want a better recruitment campaign, more transparency and monitors to deal with workplace mistreatment.
City officials disputed that the department wasn't doing enough before the trial to be fair in its hiring practices. As the trial begins, they're aiming to demonstrate that it's doing even more now.
For example, earlier this month the fire department unveiled a new million-dollar ad campaign aimed at increasing the minority applicant pool for a newly designed entrance exam, a first in several years. The application deadline is September 15.
This first phase of the trial, which involves fixing the discrimination, will likely last a week.
The second two phases of the trial, which involve damages to plaintiffs, applicants denied or delayed entry into the FDNY, will likely last a week each, as well.