Posted on June 24, 2005

Council Backs Plan to Assign Firefighters in Racial Balance

Gregory Korte, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 23

Cincinnati City Council gave its unanimous support Wednesday to a controversial effort by City Manager Valerie Lemmie to end “de facto” racial segregation at the city’s 26 firehouses.

Lemmie and Fire Chief Robert Wright would assign new recruits based on race — and are seeking a contract change with Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48 to allow him to assign all firefighters as he sees fit.

Those assignments are now made by seniority, resulting in a system in which white and black firefighters have ended up at firehouses closer to their homes or with colleagues they’re more comfortable living with.

An Enquirer analysis of fire deployment records last month found that three firehouses were all-white, six were predominantly black, and only about a third were what might be considered racially balanced.

Black and white firefighters alike have opposed the city manager’s effort, saying it would deprive them of their freedom of choice.