Judge Won't Block Firefighters Promotion Exam

CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal judge refused Thursday to block promotion tests challenged by black Cleveland firefighters.

U.S. District Judge Paul Matia rejected the request for a temporary restraining order to halt Saturday's tests, city Law Director Subodh Chandra.

Chandra said the city was determined to make sure the tests were fair.

"Mayor (Jane) Campbell is absolutely committed to having a city government that looks like Cleveland," he said. "And we're working to do that. We want to make sure that the hiring and promotion process in all departments is not only fair, but perceived as fair."

A lawsuit filed Wednesday asked the court to block the promotional exams until the testing methods can be looked into and another firm hired to administer them.

The 10 firefighters who brought the suit said blacks make up just 21 percent of the firefighters and 13 percent of the supervisors in a city with a 52 percent black population.

"These are honorable men," said the firefighters' attorney, Dennis Thompson. "They're not looking for an advantage. They don't want to fight with the city. They just want to be treated fairly."

The firefighters said many black candidates scored in the lower half of promotional tests given by the city in 1996 and 2000. The lawsuit said several whites obtained test answers beforehand.

The firefighters also claimed the city discriminated against black firefighters because there are just 15 assigned to duty on the mostly white west side, and no black officers there.

Based on a 1970s federal suit, a judge forced the city to promote an equal number of minority and white candidates between 1983 and 1995 to make up for the low numbers of black officers in the past, the suit said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)