BCFD burned again by lowered hiring standards

That great recruitment program just isn’t working out the way they thought. So far, we have a dead trainee whose physical capabilities were questionable, a handful of members who cheated on an exam, a member who planted a noose in his own station, and the latest: a FPA (Firefighter Paramedic Apprentice) charged with selling marijuana and cocaine. Nice.

Really? An addictions counselor who apparently took the client list to her new profession is a remarkable example of networking in the 21st century. golf clap
http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/baltsun/access/984804911.html?dids=984804911:984804911&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Feb+10%2C+2006&author=RONA+MARECH&pub=The+Sun&desc=Changes+in+recruitment%2C+testing+and+publicity+have+moved+city+Fire+Department+a+long+way+since+its+all-white+class+of+2004+ The full URL reads: Changes in recruitment testing and publicity have moved city Fire Department a long way since its all white class of 2004. Yeah-you’ve moved a long way, but the direction of the move causes this firefighter grave concern.

Invite parties of all races, sexes, and religious/personal orientations. Just make sure they’re of good character, and qualified before you accept them into a training class. The citizens of Baltimore deserve to be served by capable, trained individuals with clean backgrounds when they dial 9-1-1.

So none of the white fire fighters have ever done anything wrong?

Only these ‘new’ recruits have ‘problems’, is that what you’re saying?

Is that really the point?

I’d say it is, but only if if Hawkins would have been hired under the employment rules prior to the employment program. If a change in the rules has been the apparent cause of hiring substandard firefighters, shouldn’t those new hiring practices be reviewed?


But even if the new hiring standards have led to the hiring of substandard firefighters, that seems to be a rather different issue than the one we have here.

Firstly, the fact that this woman sells drugs doesn’t mean that she lacks the physical capabilities to be a firefighter. And, if she has no criminal record (something none of us know about yet, either way), then how would the old standards have kept her out? I guess what i want to know is: if someone has the physical capabilities for doing the job, and passes the exams, and has no criminal record, how the hell are you supposed to know that they might be a drug dealer?

I used my database account to track down the full text of the second story linked in the OP, the one that describes Fatima Hawkins as “the sort of person the department had in mind.”

According to that article, this is how the process worked:

Bolding mine.

So, this woman passed the first round of tests, then went through interviews, physical agility tests, medical exams, criminal background checks, and drug testing.

So again i’ll ask, if she got through all these, how was the Department supposed to know she might be a drug dealer? There is absolutely no evidence that the new recruitment strategy of the BCFD is at all related to this issue.

Yes, it’s possible that the wider net cast by the Department made it more likely that Hawkins would apply in the first place, but once she applied she still had to get through all the checks and tests. Unless the OP can provide evidence that some part of the process was fucked up by the Department (e.g., they missed a criminal record, or they messed up the drug test, or something similar), this strikes me as simply a case of one criminal, drug-dealing firefighter, not as an indictment of the whole Department and its hiring policies.

Thank you for posting additional information to which I didn’t have access without purchasing the article linked in the OP.

In the past year, we have someone who failed the physical agility test twice, but was placed in a training class, a handful of people who resort to cheating to pass an examination, and Hawkins. Doesn’t that strike you as statistically unique?

Without question, every department the size of BCFD is going to have some bad apples. It is the number of problem individuals coming on the heels of the revised hiring program which suggests the program has flaws, or you may dismiss them as unrelated events.

You ask “if she got through all these” and that’s a valid question. Unfortunately, it has already been shown that at least one person who failed an exam phase was not removed from the hiring process. I question the if.

Maybe the Baltimore Sun has been using the same hiring standards itself?


It’s been said before, and will no doubt be said again, but correlation doesn’t mean causation.

Sure, we can look at incidents like this and ask whether they might be a result of the changes to the hiring program, but i think it’s a stretch to simply make such an assumption without asking whether or not the particular problems we have here can be traced to changes in the hiring program.

Take the first case, in which someone failed the agility test twice and was still passed through to the training class. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that this was a result of the new hiring policies. It’s clear from the article i quoted, especially in the parts that i didn’t quote, that the BCFD was concerned about its image as an institution that made little effort to attract African Americans. I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that maybe, in the wake of the new policy, some people decided that it was worth pushing through a few people who might not otherwise have made the cut.

Still, the BCFD needed to do something. In 2004, the Department’s entire intake class was white, for the first time since the Department integrated in 1953. I think it’s a stretch to assume that there’s not a single qualified black person in a two-thirds black city like Baltimore who wants to be a firefighter. As my quote from the previous post suggests, the main changes made were to the actual recruiting effort, to its advertising, and to the frequency of testing.

Should they allow unqualified people to become firefighters? No. But if your main evidence that they have done this is the passing through of one individual, i think i’ll reserve judgment about the Department-wide quality of the hiring process.

As for the cheating incident, i don’t think it is relevant at all. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun on December 1 last year:

Bolding mine.

Now, i don’t claim to have intimate knowledge of the promotion policies of the BCFD, but i’d be very surprised if firefighters sitting an exam for promotion to Lieutenant or Captain had been members of the BCFD for less than 4 years.

And if these guys had been on the force since before the new hiring policies were put in place, i fail to see how their cheating reflects in any way on those new policies. Presumably, even if the new recruiting procedures had not been put in place, these firefighters still would have sat for those Lieutenant and Captain exams, and still would have cheated.

There may be problems with the BCFD’s recruiting and hiring process. There may be problems that are a direct result of the changes made back in 2004. But i don’t think you’ve offered any compelling evidence to support the connection.

Was the question, “Are you currently a drug dealer, or do you plan to be one soon?”, removed from the screening questions?

That would be a very poor choice of change to make. :stuck_out_tongue:

danceswithcats is once again indulging his favorite hobby: find something bad some random black person can be blamed for, and yell about it as loudly and inaccurately as you can in another vague and semiarticulate attack on affirmative action. This latest effort is no better than the others, in that there’s no evidence that lowered standards played any part in Hawkins’ hiring, that the article cited documents her immediate suspension by the department pending the outcome of the investigation, that it assumes that a recruit’s failings, whatever they may be, are the result of of her race, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a reason the OP couldn’t remember his past efforts well enough to cite them, folks, and pretty soon we’ll all be reminded of what it is. Speaking of the OP’s past, if he was really proud of being a Baltimore firefighter, why does he claim to be a teacher/construction worker?

One thing I can say: every single danceswithcats post does manage to frighten me with respect to the quality of Baltimore firefighters. Every one.

Just to clarify… it was just one class that was all-white, not everyone who came into the department that year.

He isn’t a Baltimore firefighter. He is a firefighter in Pennsylvania and is a self-employed contractor.


Bolding mine. That’s exactly what I’ve been driving at. Unfortunately, number fudging by test proctors, and/or selecting candates to achieve a proper pool of diversity isn’t going to be reported by The Sun.

Without question, there are qualified black candidates in Baltimore-candidates whose backgrounds are drug and crime free, who meet all exam criteria. Statistically, they won’t make up the degree of diversity sought by ‘Doc’ Cheatham, Henry Burris, and the Mayor’s office.

As far as i can tell from an April 20, 2004 article in the Baltimore Sun, either that was the only class taken that year, or there was possibly one other class taken later in the year.

Here’s the relevant section:

It’s not clear to me whether or not that third class ended up being hired late in 2004 or early in 2005.

Anyway, while i’m happy to believe that the single all-white class was a statistical anomaly, it’s pretty clear that the BCFD had apparently made little real effort to recruit African Americans to its ranks before the 2004 change in recruitment policy. That same article also notes:

And, as some other articles i’ve been reading note, before the change in recruitment policy, the (rather infrequent) entrance exams received virtually no publicity in the city of Baltimore, and were mainly advertised by word of mouth among firefighters and others who knew they were coming up.

If you already have a majority-white fire department, with a bunch of people from the counties, and if you allow word-of-mouth to be your main method of recruiting new firefighters, then it’s not very surprising that incoming classes tend to be predominantly white. I’m not saying that there was anything necessarily nefarious or explicitly segregationist about the policy, but i think it behooves a fire department to try and recruit from among the people whom it serves.

Well, except when it is. Is this now a city-wide conspiracy not only to lower the BCFD standards, but to prevent that from even being reported? Does the absence of a Sun report now constitute, in your mind, probitive evidence of the BCFD’s decline?

I’m as cynical as anyone about corruption in Baltimore—i can rant at length about the bribes and dodgy permits that characterize the city’s building inspectors—but i don’t buy your unsubstantiated implication that the Sun is refusing to report this stuff. Every quote i’ve given in this thread has been from the Sun. The article that i was just quoting in my last post also says:

Seems to contradict your view that the Sun won’t report this kind of thing. Or are you just complaining that they don’t get sufficiently indignant about it?

The Department allowed some black candidates to skip the entrance exam as the first requirement, but explicitly stated that they would have to pass the exam after training in order to actually get a job. You might argue that this is bad policy, but you still haven’t demonstrated that it has led to a poorer quality of firefighting in Baltimore City, or a lower quality of people actually accepted into the force as permanent firefighters (rather than trainees).

Also, your drug dealer and your exam cheats have now apparently disappeared as evidence for your thread title. Do you concede that Fatima Hawkins and the test cheats can’t actually tell us anything about the new recruiting policies, or are you hoping that people will just accept, without any direct link, that those cases should be lumped in as evidence of the failure of the new policies?

Favorite hobby, eh? Let’s see-you’ve listed four out of 365, or 1.09%. That doesn’t sound like a favorite hobby to me, particularly when you note that one of the four threads cited has absolutely nothing to do with affirmative action, but instead criticized a movie producer for glorifying the gangsta lifestyle.

Please link to one post, just one, where I claimed to be a member of BCFD.

First off, I must apologize for the wrong I’ve committed – against the city of Baltimore.

I gave the OP the courtesy of assuming that he was at least acting out of some warped and bigoted but honestly held civic pride – but as it turns out, danceswithcats is outraged by efforts at diversity no matter where they might occur. He (and let this be known throughout the land) claims sometimes to be a firefighter in threads critical of the Baltimore Fire Department, but he is not, never has been and never hopes to be, a firefighter in the BCFD. What a relief, sort of. For Baltmore.

Actually it’s 5 out of the last 26, for almost twenty per cent, not even counting anti-immigrant screeds or threads with neutral-sounding titles that contain objectionable content. Since your posts tend to be moral and intellectual ipecac, I didn’t look further. I believe that anybody who talks enough must eventually say some innocuous things – it’s just that it can’t be relied on for very long. As you just keep on proving.

And by the way: try, at least once in this series of obnoxious bigotry, to keep your facts straight. For example, if recruits cheat on the test, that is not evidence that the test is too easy. If a person commits a crime and is of a certain ethnicity, that is not proof that his/her ethnicity predisposed him/her to the crime. And being a firefighter, as you claim to be, is emphatically not proof of an unimpeachable moral character, even if you were hired before all the minorities spoiled it for you.

Although, to be fair, you’re probably good to have around if something’s on fire.

danceswithcats has never claimed to be associated with the BCFD; he’s a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania.
The Baltimore City FD would be lucky to have him.

Keep your facts straight. The test-cheating scandal was for a promotions test for those already in the department. It was not the FD entrance test, which, as was explained in the earlier thread, was already revamped (i.e, made easier, dumbed down) in order to help minorities pass it and gain positions in the fire department after the one-time anomaly of an all-white class several years ago.

Yes, and the OP has presented the cheating as evidence of the problems caused by “lowered hiring standards,” despite the fact that those firefighters were in the BCFD before the standards were changed. Do you agree with him?

Well, i’ve already stated that i’m happy to accept that the all-white class was probably a statistical anomaly, but the number of African American recruits was pretty fucking piss-poor for a city that’s two-thirds black. Do you think that a policy of allowing a mostly-white fire department to draw most of its new recruits by word of mouth is a good idea? Do you think that advertising the department to the widest possible pool of candidates is a good idea? Do you think it’s reasonable for a city fire department to at least attempt to draw its recruits from the people whom it serves?

While you have yet to come out and say so explicitly, all of your posts in this thread seem to imply that you support the OP’s argument. Time to actually take a position: do you or don’t you think that the Fatima Hawkins case was indicative of the BCFD being “burned by lowered hiring standards”? Do you think the cheats on the Lieutenant/Captain exam are evidence of the failure of the new hiring process? And do you, or the OP, have any actual evidence that the standard of firefighter working in Baltimore is declining as a result of the policy changes?

What difference does it make if all the crew members on an engine are all white, just because the city is mostly black? Why should fire recruits have to live in the city? Yes, I think advertising testing dates to a wide pool of applicants is a good idea, but they have to chose the best applicants, not just because they make a for a pretty class photo.

"All of my posts? You mean all two of them?

I don’t know enough about the Fatima Hawkins case or the cheating scandal to know if those were indicative of the new hiring practices. I do know, however, as a member of the Baltimore County Fire Department, that it’s one of the city and county’s worst kept secrets that they strive to hire ‘ethnically diverse’ classes, to the point of turning down qualified applicants in favor of those who will help make up a racially diverse group. I’m not saying all of the people hired are unqualified or have no business being there, but I feel they should hire the best applicants for the job, regardless of their ethnic background. So what if the city is mostly black, and they hired one class that was all-white? Do you really think people care about the racial make-up of the fire department when their house is on fire or their grandmother is having a heart attack?