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Community Leaders Want More Equality At Raleigh Fire Department

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On the day in which slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered for his work in bringing equality among different races, members of three black organizations spoke out Monday about what they call a lack of equality in the Raleigh Fire Department.

Members of the Triangle Urban League, Raleigh-Apex NAACP, and the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association allege that the city of Raleigh should do a better job with diversity and inclusion in the fire department and other ranks of city government.

Out of 498 total filled uniform positions, 61 are black men and there are no black women on the department.

"I think it's really appalling that the city of Raleigh can not move itself to find individuals in the African-American community that are qualified to be (firefighters) in the city of Raleigh," said Marshall Harvey, a member of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association.

Group leaders will present a letter spelling out their concerns and recommendations to the city on Tuesday, which include adopting and funding a recruitment plan modeled on one used by the city's police department.

Leaders believe the Raleigh Police Department has done a good job recruiting. In comparison with the fire department, about 16 percent of the sworn police personnel are black. The department recruits at black colleges and universities, and in minority publications.

"Such action taken by the city and its administration would not only improve the morale of the fire department, but it would assure the community that the city of Raleigh is responsive, as well as fair and inclusive, in its recruitment, employment and retention of its employees," said Keith Sutton, of the Triangle Urban League.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the leaders have a right to be concerned and that the need for minority recruitment is in the city budget and up for review with the economic development committee.

"While Raleigh has done better the last two to three years with minority and female recruiting, we really have a long way to go," Meeker said.

He also pointed out, however, that the fire department does not really recruit in the same way as the police department.

A few weeks ago, a new fire chief was hired from outside, which angered Assistant Fire Chief Larry Stanford, who is black, because he felt he was passed over for the job because of his race.

Meeker, however, said the new fire chief, John McGrath, was more qualified for the position and that Stanford is an outstanding employee.

"Assistant Chief Stanford was certainly well qualified to be chief as was another internal candidate, who happened to be European-American," Meeker said. "The manager determined the applicant from out of town was more qualified and that's what's happened."

McGrath is a long-time firefighter from Philadelphia. He replaces Earl Fowler, who retired last year.


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