Hard Questions about race in the Cleveland Fire Department

Hard Questions about race in the Cleveland Fire Department

New promotions coming up in the Cleveland Fire Department are sparking hard questions about race.

Dozens of bosses get promoted, and the figures disturb a minority firefighters group.

City Hall says 17 new captains will be named, but only one is a minority. And 25 new lieutenants, but only five of them are minorities.

Rudy Buffington heads the Vanguards of Cleveland, and he told 19 Action News, "It's not that it's not about color. It is about color. Everything's about color. It's about diversity in the workforce. And the City of Cleveland deserves it."

We went to the city's Safety Director Michael McGrath. He points out, promotions come after tests, and bosses generally match the racial breakdown of the department. Blacks, Hispanics, and a few women make up about a quarter of the force. McGrath thinks the key to change is first getting more minorities to, in fact, join the force.

Cleveland's population is slightly better than half minority. And some firefighters are talking about this now since many veterans are leaving.

"It's a turning point as far as the department is concerned. This class will shape the fire department for the next 25 years," said McGrath.

The safety director says the city is now stepping up recruitment efforts in the city to attract more minorities to both the fire and police departments.

Two of the last three fire chiefs were black. But now, with dozens of promotions just ahead, new questions about the face of the department.

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