While stakeholders are optimistic about the Boston Fire Department’s new cadet program, which aims to create more diversity within its ranks, they’re imploring the city to make a quota for hires from this pool a mandate.
“There’s a difference between a benchmark and a mandate when it comes to meeting goals,” said Rep. Chynah Tyler, who filed the bill at the State House that authorized forming the cadet program, during a virtual meeting on Jab. 25 sponsored by Lawyers for Civil Rights. “Having a benchmark is unacceptable – we want to have a mandate to make sure that the 33 percent is met.”
Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation into law last month, which creates a two-year cadet program for would-be firefighters, ages 18 to 25, who are appointed by the fire chief, and have been living in the city for at least five years and attended Boston Public Schools. The legislation would also cap the appointments of new cadets to one-third for each of the Fire Department’s two incoming classes of around 50 every year.
“This should be a mandate, and we should be pushing to get this done,” said City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who introduced the hearing order on the matter that paved the way for the home-rule petition Mayor Martin Walsh introduced last year. “These are high-paying jobs.”
Councilor Campbell described the BFD, which is reportedly more than 72 percent white and more than 94 percent male, as “the least diverse of any of our city agencies.”
Darrell Higginbottom, president of the Boston Society of Vulcans, a nonprofit comprising Boston firefighters of color, as well as a 22-year veteran of the BFD, said, “It’s very important that the community is there throughout the whole process.”
Attorney Sophia Hall of Lawyers for Civil Rights urged the city to give the Vulcans themselves an active role in helping to roll out the cadets program. “The Vulcans have been committed to this issue for more than a decade,” Hall said, “so it’s imperative that they have a seat at the table.”