Judge Calls New York Firefighters Racist?

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(PartiallyPolitics.com) – Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Brooklyn Federal Court pointed to an event where members of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) heckled Attorney General Letitia James and expressed support for former President Trump, indicating an ongoing issue of racism within the FDNY.

Garaufis has summoned FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and Sylvia Hinds-Radix of the city’s Corporation Counsel to a status conference in May to discuss the Vulcan Society of Black firefighters’ lawsuit settlement against the FDNY, as reported by the New York Daily News.

During a previous status conference on March 14, Vulcan Society President Regina Wilson addressed an incident on March 8, where FDNY members disrupted a ceremony featuring James by chanting in support of Trump. This behavior led to an internal investigation and prompted an apology from Kavanagh.

Wilson highlighted this incident as reflective of a broader issue within the FDNY, expressing concern about the work environment for Black employees and the lack of departmental support.

Judge Garaufis directed the department to address these issues, emphasizing the need to improve the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office and to conduct hearings. He remarked that the problem extends beyond politics to racial issues.

The lawsuit filed by the Vulcan Society in 2007 accused the city of discriminatory practices, leading to a $98 million settlement in 2014 for affected minority firefighters. In 2011, Garaufis had found that FDNY exams discriminated against Black individuals, a decision later overturned but with his recommended remedies upheld.

The issue of unresolved EEO complaints has been a longstanding concern, with FDNY officials noting a shortage of investigative attorneys, exacerbated by the pandemic. The department is looking to bolster its staff to address this.

Garaufis stressed the urgency of resolving these issues, criticizing the pace of progress and calling for Commissioner Kavanagh’s presence at the next meeting. He also mentioned Hinds-Radix’s potential dissatisfaction with the lack of adherence to directives.

FDNY representatives reaffirmed their commitment to a discrimination-free workplace and to addressing the backlog of EEO complaints. They also mentioned ongoing discussions to maintain proper conduct at department events. The Law Department expressed its dedication to assisting the FDNY EEO Office and planning to update the court on their progress.

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