Standing Up for Firefighters of Color in Springfield, MA

Employment, Racial Justice

Standing Up for Firefighters of Color

Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus curiae) brief in Superior Court in Hampden County in support of Black firefighters who are holding the City of Springfield accountable for not enforcing its own residency requirements for public employees.

The case, Savage v. City of Springfield, concerns a municipal ordinance that requires members of the Springfield Fire Department to live within the city’s boundaries. Despite this clear and well-established legal requirement, the City has failed to enforce its own ordinance, and a disturbing number of high-ranking officials live outside of the City limits. This pervasive illegal activity — perpetrated by City officials who are resistant to community representation and accountability — continues to harm firefighters of color who are seeking promotions and undermines the Fire Department’s efforts to achieve diversity.

Our brief argues that in rapidly diversifying cities, residency requirements can provide an important tool for diversifying city agencies and ensuring that public officials are representative of the community they serve.  “There is absolutely no excuse for Springfield’s failure to enforce its own laws,” said Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “We hope that the Court will recognize the urgent need for diversity in the Springfield Fire Department and order remedies for the City’s obstructionist policies.”

“Diversity in public employment is critical, particularly for public safety agencies like fire and police departments,” added Oren Nimni, Civil Rights Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee. “Diverse public safety agencies foster greater community trust, increase efficacy of services, and help ensure greater accountability to the public.”

Learn more about this case on MassLive.

Amicus Brief for Public Release