More fascinating news from the courtroom of Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, via The Daily News: the questionable pasts of white candidates were overlooked when they came up for review with the FDNY, a deposition stated yesterday. Even former NYPD cops Richard Murphy and Edward McMellon, who shot Amadou Diallo, were allowed to become firefighters, the News reports.
For months, we’ve been looking at why the overwhelmingly white FDNY has the the least diverse make up of any agency in New York City (or of any fire department of a major city in America). Although Judge Garaufis ruled the most recent entrance exams to be racially discriminatory, we saw little evidence of this when we looked at the actual exam questions. And yet, as the federal government’s lawsuit against the city for failing to diversify the force lumbers into its fourth decade, it’s obvious something has been happening to keep the FDNY from creating the same kind of representative force the NYPD has achieved over the past few decades.
A 2008 deposition entered into the record yesterday, from former FDNY assistant personnel commissioner Patricia Kavler, may be the most insightful look yet at how the way the FDNY looks after their co-workers’ friends and children may be just why it has stayed so monochromatic.
Calling it “boys being boys,” Kavaler described high ranking officers in the fire department vouching for men who had beat their wives. They would vouch for the character of those with problematic pasts, and lobby the board that had the power to overlook such things.
According to another witness, the director of candidate investigations, there was little concern over hiring two cops who had shot, but who had not been convicted of murdering, Amadou Diallo.
It is unclear to us whether beating a woman or the stigma of having killed an unarmed suspect in the line of duty would legally preclude a candidate from becoming a firefighter. But what is clear is this: before it was declared invalid, there was much on the minds of the candidates who aced the last exam as they waited in limbo. One thing was a fear that, during the years they eventually waited, things could happen to make them ineligible. They were afraid that the most minor of entanglements with law enforcement — even traffic infractions — could wind up hurting their character and ending their chances of becoming a firefighter. One candidate told us one reason he hated waiting so long to start at the academy because he thought a speeding ticket could end his dreams.
So if the deposition and the testimony are true, it’s curious that those connected to the department were able to have major questions overlooked. It would seem to show a pattern where those already on the job helped their friends and family get on the job, a situation that would leave the department with the same make up as it has had for generations.