Trolling For Police And Fire Residency

City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh, who has about one month remaining on his 16-year career on the legislative body, is not going out quietly. In an email to his council peers he urges them to examine residency preference for police and fire applicants with a push toward what the city of Hartford is doing. See Walsh email below followed by the referenced New Haven Register article regarding firefighter residency in Hartford.

On Monday night the Miscellaneous Matters Committee passed a resolution increasing the preference points for open competitive exams. And although there was much discussion about this matter, no one from the city offered the Hartford option as being available to us.

Below is an article concerning options that other cities in Connecticut have implemented or are considering. The city of Hartford requires that job applicants be city residents at the time that they fill out the application. This rule goes much further in ensuring Bridgeport residents receive the highest priority when it comes to hiring than giving residential preference to the 35 percent of the Bridgeport residents who currently make up the applicant pool additional point if they pass the test.

New Haven is considering at a minimum requiring that at least 50% of the pool of applicants are bona fide city residents. And this article goes on to state that the Hartford law has been on their books for more than a decade and has withstood court challenges. Why is the Bridgeport City Council willing to accept so much less than what other large cities are doing?

One reason is as I mentioned at the beginning, if the council does not have their own resources to perform their own research then we are left to accept what the city is willing to tell us. And the city cannot feign ignorance on the matter since Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine K. Ficarra is quoted in the article.

As I said in the meeting I have always been a big supporter of Bridgeport residents being members of the police and fire departments. I know from my father being a Bridgeport firefighter AND a resident that the city was served well be his vigilance 7 days a week when it came to fire hazards and other safety concerns. I voted against the item in committee because I thought it needed more review. In light of the article below I am urging my colleagues to reject this proposal until the council has received a much more thorough explanation of the options available.

And although an attorney is quoted in the article. “Attorney Karen Torre, however, said “at first glance” either policy could set up the city for a lawsuit based on disparate impact, the claim she successfully argued for the “New Haven 20″ firefighters. They claimed they were discriminated against when the city tossed two promotional exams when blacks scored disproportionately poorly” all of the council members should be aware that currently there are only 2 pre-qualified candidates who are female among the over 300 candidates in the pool. The city has no problem with discriminating against females when using the CPAT test and are not concerned about potential lawsuits. So do not buy the lie when they tell you that a much tougher residency rule would lose a court challenge.

 Bob Walsh

New Haven Register article:

New Haven, Conn. Eyes Firefighter Residency

Oct. 22–NEW HAVEN — The city will consider adopting a policy similar to Hartford, which requires any fire department applicants to be residents of the Capitol city at the time they apply.

The idea was presented Thursday night by a 26-year-old who hopes to get hired on the New Haven department and as the city was pitching its own proposal that could help more city residents get hired.

Catrell Simmons, of New Haven, pointed out that to apply in Hartford, you have to live in Hartford.

“Why can’t this (New Haven) test be open to just New Haven residents?” he asked at an aldermanic hearing.

When city officials checked, they discovered Hartford in fact does have a residency requirement at the time of application. That doesn’t mean they have to remain city residents afterward.

On Friday, Robert Smuts, the New Haven’s chief administrative officer, said the city would do its “due diligence” on the legality, but added, “I think it’s something that we’re going to be inclined to look at very seriously.”

Of the state’s three largest cities, each handles residency differently. In Bridgeport, city residents get a bump of 10 percentage points on their final score on the fire department civil service exam. New Haven currently gives a flat five points.

The proposal before the Board of Aldermen this week aimed to increase chances for city residents and, by extension minorities given the city’s diverse population, to get hired on the fire service. When Smuts proposed to limit applications to 800 and set aside half for city residents; however, many in the room wanted more.

Darnell Goldson, the West Rock alderman, followed up Friday and requested the city follow Hartford’s lead.

“We should adopt a 100 percent New Haven resident application proposal. Apparently, Hartford’s policy has withstood court challenges, and has been successfully incorporated,” Goldson said in an email.

Bridgeport also is hiring a fire department class.

Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine K. Ficarra said the fire department began recruitment last winter with an emphasis toward increasing city representation and diversity.

In theory, New Haven’s 50-50 proposal would increase chances of residents of getting hired by limiting external candidates. The last time the city recruited a major class in 2007, more than 1,300 people applied and more than 1,000 firefighter hopefuls were from out-of-town.

James Rawlings, president of the Greater New Haven NAACP, said the civil rights group supported 100 percent of applications be for city residents.

Smuts Friday said, based on cursory research, the Hartford policy was challenged in federal court in 1998 and the case was dismissed.

Attorney Karen Torre, however, said “at first glance” either policy could set up the city for a lawsuit based on disparate impact, the claim she successfully argued for the “New Haven 20” firefighters. They claimed they were discriminated against when the city tossed two promotional exams when blacks scored disproportionately poorly.

“You can call it resident preference, but I don’t think there can be any question that the goal is to decrease the number of white applicants,” she said, noting the NAACP has successfully challenged barriers for non-residents in towns that are predominantly white.

If the city turns away 600 applicants and the “majority are white, you have some disparate impact,” she said.

After hearing Simmons’ claim, Hill Alderman Jorge Perez went home and did a basic Google search and, within 30 minutes, found not only Hartford’s policy, but also reference to the federal court case upholding it as legal.

Research by legislative support staff in New Haven Friday revealed a state opinion from the Office of Legislative Services that concluded that, while municipal residency requirements as a condition of employment are unconstitutional, the law does not prohibit requirements at the point of application.

Perez said he “absolutely” believed New Haven should try the Hartford model in the Fire Department as a pilot and maybe in the future in public works and the parks departments.

He said he heard again and again during the last election that “people are looking for jobs” and for leaders who will find creative ways to assist them.

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11 comments

  1. “One reason is as I mentioned at the beginning, if the Council does not have their own resources to perform their own research then we are left to accept what the city is willing to tell us. And the city cannot feign ignorance on the matter since Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine K. Ficarra is quoted in the article.” Bob Walsh, from above.

    Bob, you know as well as I do the Council has about $100,000 in its Legislative Budget that did not get spent last year by the May 30 last report. Word is this amount has not been spent by that Committee for many years. So the City Council has money for research. Does it have the desire to know more or does it desire to wallow in its own ignorance?

    Secondly, the City Council also has a legislative assistant who can be used by the Council or committees to advance their work. Is there a reason this City employee, who was a City Council member in the past himself, is not seen at Committee meetings to support opportunities for each Committee to gain their mission objectives?
    The City overall should not “feign” ignorance in any case, because ignorance itself is too readily apparent too often in City business these days.

    Bob, upon your retirement from the Council, perhaps you can share some additional “truths” about Council process with the OIB public to take the blinders off readers who do not come to meetings, read minutes, see the video replay, and/or live with expectations of processed learned in other communities, which are unaware of “the Bridgeport way(s)” of doing things? Halloween, a scary time of year is upon us, and then come election results that may even be more scary! Time will tell.

  2. Well, I see where the city wants to increase the amount of preference points Bridgeport residents receive on open competitive exams from 10% to 15%. My first concern is why limit it to 15% and not just do what Hartford does, require all individuals who aspire to be Bridgeport firefighters to live within the city and if we are following the example of Hartford let’s get rid of CPAT like Hartford did several years ago. Why shouldn’t Bridgeport residents have all those positions?

    In early March of 2011 the Firebird Society met with Mayor Finch and told him the use of CPAT would severely inhibit the City of Bridgeport’s ability to hire Blacks, Latinos, women and city residents for the fire department. We backed this up with empirical data that showed how CPAT is discriminatory and the use of CPAT will not nor cannot assure one of a better firefighter or fire department. Now here we are seven months later and the city (Mayor Finch) is postulating for additional preference points to make up for the shortcoming which is obviously happening with the current firefighters exam due to the use of CPAT.

    We are in receipt of additional documentation that shows more than 2000 suburban white males are currently CPAT certified in anticipation of taking the Bridgeport Fire Department exam. This document also shows less than 400 city residents are currently CPAT certified, thus putting our residents at a distinct disadvantage in getting employment in the city where they live, where they went to school and where they raise their families. As you can see this is considerably less than the 35% mentioned in the article.

    According to an FOI request from Civil Service, of those hired from the 2002 exam, 36% were Black, 35% were Latino, 29% were White, 14% were women and here is the big one, 79% were city residents. As you can see those numbers are very similar to the population of Bridgeport and we were able to achieve that total because of the number of Bridgeport residents who were able to take the exam in 2002. By instituting CPAT Bridgeport diluted the applicant pool of Bridgeport residents of all ethnicities and genders. In fact of those city residents who were hired from the 2002 employment list I know of eight who have purchased homes here in our city. I know of three who have opened their own businesses here in the city. Those eight individuals who purchased homes are essentially helping to pay for their own salaries, while those from the suburbs take their incomes back to their communities for the uplift of those communities.

    There has never been in the history of the BFD an individual from the suburbs who became a Bridgeport firefighter and who moved to Bridgeport after being hired.

    I am neither saying nor intimating those individuals from the suburbs aren’t great firefighters who put their lives on the line every day they come to work. What I am saying is those firefighters from Bridgeport are also great firefighters who are putting their lives on the line and are also using their salary for the uplift of the Bridgeport community. I said once and I’ll say it again, All things being equal, give me the Bridgeport kid.

    1. Mr. Day,
      You need to look no further than Shit Bag Rooney, Rat Face Dunn and the Bridgeport Training Division to find your answer regarding the CPAT. FOI all the documents which led to another Racist Rooney decision.

  3. These are very hard financial times and even harder times for residents of Bridgeport to find good-paying jobs and careers here in Bridgeport. The citizens of Bridgeport deserve to be able to fill these position so they can continue to pay taxes, shop and support their City with these good-paying jobs THEIR tax dollars are paying for.

    I would think the elected City officials of Bridgeport would want to make sure residents of Bridgeport are hired for City jobs.

  4. I am 100% in favor of this firefighter exam being open to Bridgeport residents only. In these hard economic times we should take care of our own first. For more years than I can remember the police and fire departments were staffed by Bridgeport residents only. No one can tell me there are not enough quality applicants in Bridgeport to take this exam.
    The Cpat testing is nothing more than a money cow thought up by people who have no clue what firefighting is. It’s endorsed by cities and towns because it saves them a few bucks.
    I am in favor of doing away with Cpat, take applications from Bridgeport residents only, hold an agility test here in Bridgeport and let the training division do the actual training. I am also in favor of putting a mandatory age limit on candidates such as 37 years old. Setting a maximum age in public safety jobs has passed through the various court systems and has been upheld.

  5. In a bit we will have a number of young men and woman coming home from the war. It would be nice to have a system in place to assist in getting them work. Since those from Bridgeport are paying taxes now they should receive preferential treatment. I would expect they’d be in better physical condition and be a good fit for law enforcement/Fire prevention positions.

  6. cc, if you are asking do I embrace and advocate for residency requirements for the fire department, let me give you an unequivocal yes. If an individual from Fairfield wants to become a Bridgeport firefighter, then they can just move to Bridgeport. Juan, are you insinuating an individual’s ability to score well on a multiple choice question exam is an indicator of that person’s ability to be a good firefighter or police? I retired as a captain with over 20 years and I can assure you there was nothing on any entry level exam that was a predictor of one’s ability to be a good Bridgeport firefighter. It can’t measure honesty, integrity, one’s ability to be a team player or courage, all things one needs to be a good firefighter.

    According to the Connecticut Post in an article written on March 7, 2010, Blacks and Latinos continued to post much higher unemployment rates than whites. And right now it’s particularly hard on black men, who have an unemployment rate of 20 percent in Connecticut, compared to the 8.5 percent for white men. About 13.2 percent of Latino men are unemployed. THESE ARE BRIDGEPORT RESIDENTS WHO DESERVE THESE JOBS BEFORE ANYONE FROM ANOTHER CITY.

    These are tough economic times and it would be in Bridgeport’s best interests to employ taxpaying, tax generating, Bridgeport educated people for Bridgeport jobs.

    Bridgeport can tell that young kid in high school who knows he or she doesn’t want to go to college if they stayed in high school to graduate he can compete for city jobs, police, fire, park or whatever, with only city residents. Right now those kids will be competing with over 2000 suburbanites for 25 jobs.

    These jobs change lives and if they will change a life then they can change a generation …

  7. *** Regardless of the outcome, lawsuits on Bpt PD & BFD applications & exams seem almost part of the entire process when everything is said & done. The CPAT testing is a revenue “first” joke, then it’s meet sexual, age & racial quota time, followed by a residency clause which leads to a “who you know” percentage thus leaving who “actually qualifies” for the job for last! *** WHAT’S POLITICALLY CORRECT WHEN IT COMES TO FIRE & SAFETY NOWADAYS? ***

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