Lack of Diversity in Boston’s Fire Department

Racial Justice

Boston’s Response to Report on Lack of Diversity in Fire Department: More Empty Promises?

Boston, MA — A recent city-commissioned review regarding the lack of diversity in the Boston Fire Department (BFD) tells an old tale tracing years of City inaction in the face of persistent gender inequality. BFD remains the least diverse public safety agency in the City with more than 94% of the department identifying as male and 72% of the department identifying as white. These demographics are particularly troubling in the era of #MeToo and #YoTambien, where women working in male dominated work spaces raise concerns about physical safety and autonomy. It is clear that Boston is failing to reflect its community and failing to keep pace with other metropolitan fire departments across the country such as San Francisco where 15% of its fire department are women, including the Fire Chief.

In addition to telling a persistent problem, the city-commissioned report sets forth years of inaction by the City. The report includes many of the same recommendations that have been offered to the City of Boston by Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), community members, and stakeholders for decades. In particular, LCR, together with the Boston Society of Vulcans, have long requested the creation of a Fire Cadet Program to mirror that of the Police Cadet Program, which has shown promise in diversifying the police force. More than two-thirds of the current women firefighters are also women of color, demonstrating that initiatives to increase diversity can and will have a dual impact on improving both racial and gender diversity.

In response, Mayor Walsh says he will carry out all of the proposed recommendations, including seeking legislation to create a Fire Cadet Program. Yet, this is a commitment made years ago. LCR calls on Mayor Walsh to do more than make empty promises. Rather, we demand a comprehensive implementation plan that identifies a specific timeline for the drafting and introduction of a bill to the State House and a description of the advocacy that will support said bill. Words alone are no longer enough to appease the public into believing that diversity in public safety agencies is a priority for this city.