Posted on October 17, 2005

Black Firefighters’ Claims Dismissed from Suit

Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Black Cleveland firefighters accusing the city of discrimination in a controversial lawsuit have little evidence they can use to support most of their claims, a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin threw out many of the allegations made by more than 30 black firefighters.

Two of the most explosive claims — that the Cleveland Fire Department is hostile toward blacks and that the department and city intentionally treat black firefighters differently when it comes to promotions, work assignments and discipline — were among those dismissed.

“The plaintiffs do an exceedingly poor job of supporting their theory with evidence,” Gwin wrote.

Bob Fisher, president of Fire Fighters Local 93, was not surprised by the ruling.

“This is a small group with no validation for the erroneous claims they’ve made, and the judge saw that,” Fisher said.

The trial, which is scheduled to begin later this month, will now focus only on whether the tests used by the city to promote are unfair toward black firefighters. Dennis Thompson, the lawyer for the black firefighters, said the promotional exam was the main focus of their argument anyway.


The black firefighters claim the test used to promote does not accurately measure qualities such as leadership and integrity. Also, the plaintiffs claim there is no proof that those who score high on the promotional exam go on to serve as effective officers.

Fisher said some of the firefighters who were called racist in the depositions are considering legal action.

“A bunch of guys were put on Front Street and now the judge says there’s no basis to try that portion of the case,” Fisher said. “What can be done to clean up their names?”

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