BOSTON, MA -- Boston City Councilor At-Large Michael F. Flaherty, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, recommended passage on a proposed home rule petition which would establish a fire cadet training program to the Boston Fire Department. Sponsored by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the proposed legislation would allow cadets to compose up to 33% of an upcoming fire recruit class. Existing civil service laws create a barrier for women and people of color who are seeking to join the Boston Fire Department.

This proposed legislation seeks to diversify future recruit classes. Testifying on behalf of the Administration were Danielson Tavares, Chief of Diversity Officer for the City of Boston; Juan Sanchez, Boston Fire Department Diversity Officer; and Vivian Leonard, Director of Human Resources for the City of Boston.    

During a public hearing on the proposal, the Committee on Operations discussed with stakeholders on the intention of this program providing an alternate, structured pathway into the Fire Department for Boston residents. The Boston Fire Department recently partnered with Action for Boston Community Development to create the Future Protectors Initiative. This consists of a 6-8 week teen fire academy, which trains Boston Public School juniors and seniors between the ages 16-21 in civil service and other forms of public safety. According to Juan Sanchez, Diversity Officer for the Boston Fire Department, there is an ongoing effort to explore an afterschool program to help recruitment efforts of BPS students.

During the hearing, Officer Sanchez highlighted the efforts of community outreach throughout Boston Public Schools to not only raise the profile of women in the department, but also promotes recruitment of female candidates. An increase of both racial/ethnic and gender diversity throughout civil service will bring new role models to the youth of the city, encouraging them to enlist in the cadet program, or other forms of civil work, themselves.

Councilor Flaherty’s passage of the proposal came with significant recommendations. Considering his own experience taking the Civil Service Exam in the late 80s, the Boston City Council critiqued the increased cost needed to take the test today. “If you’re a resident of the City of Boston, you should be able to come in, sit for the Police, Fire and/or EMS exam which should be free of charge as a resident and a taxpayer,” stated Flaherty.

While acknowledging termination of the test fee would raise costs on the City, Councilor Flaherty suggested that the Fire Department hold physical aptitude tests in the beginning of the recruitment process. As currently constructed, the Fire Department places their prospective recruits through these tests at the end of their two year training. Shifting these tests to the start of the process rather than the end would ensure that the City Fire Department utilizes their resources exclusively on those physically capable for the job, eliminating wasteful spending.

With 14 cities across the country already operating their own fire cadet programs, the City of Boston should utilize data from these locales in order to create efficient strategies meant to ensure inclusion throughout the Fire Department.

“I have long stated that our civil service officers should reflect the diversity of Boston. This legislation seeks to provide an additional solution, addressing a need, for our Fire Department,” stated Councilor Flaherty. “I look forward to this legislation being implemented and providing an enriching opportunity for our residents seeking to enter civil service.”

The proposed matter now seeks approval from the State Legislature.



Tweets from @mfflaherty