FDNY Bows To Diversity Critics

Lisa L. Colanagelo, Robert F. Moore and Kathleen Lucadamo, New York Daily News, Aug. 7, 2006

In a major shift, the FDNY is set to relax its hiring requirements as it struggles to boost the number of minority firefighters, the Daily News has learned.

Applicants will need only 15 college credits—down from 30—or six months of work experience, sources said.

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The FDNY has long been dogged by criticism about its lack of diversity, and its hiring practices are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, with findings due out shortly.

“The changes, along with a stronger recruitment effort, are small steps in the right direction,” said Capt. Paul Washington, head of the Vulcan Society, a group representing the FDNY’s black firefighters and a frequent critic of the department’s hiring practices.

“It’s encouraging, but there’s more to be done.”

Of the FDNY’s 11,400 uniformed members, about 325—less than 3%—are black. About 30, less than 1%, are women.

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Top FDNY bosses also are considering a change in the way the test is scored, sources said.

Applicants who live in the five boroughs are currently given five extra points on the exam.

But under a new proposal, applicants with a city address would receive 2-1/2 extra points and those with a diploma from a city high school would win another 2-1/2 bonus points, sources said.

The percentage of minorities in FDNY graduating classes has more than doubled since 1999, fueled mainly by a surge in Latino firefighters, officials said.

But when 139 probationary firefighters graduated in April, just six were black.

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