Chicago's Fire Commission Says CFD Is Taking Steps To Increase Diversity

Craig Dellimore
October 31, 2019 - 8:16 am
Chicago Fire Department

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago’s top fire official said the department is doing what it can to increase diversity among the firefighter ranks, but there’s a long way to go.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard Ford rattled off numbers showing that the most firefighters are white males. Of more than 4,700 sworn personnel, 65 percent are Caucasian, 17 percent are African-American, 16 percent Hispanic; and 90 percent of firefighters are men.  

The Commissioner said there’ll be a new firefighters exam in 2020 and recruiting starts next year; but, Alderman Walter Burnett cited the police department, which made a big advertising push to attract minority candidates for the test.  

"They really blast, trying to get on black radio and everything, posters, flyers, all our offices trying to get minority participants to apply. Do you all do that too, or do you have a budget to do that?" Alderman Burnett said.

The Commissioner responded, "well no, we don't right now have the funding to do that..." but the city's other offices like Human Resources were planning to help.

And he also said progress towards a more diverse fire department would be faster if tests for entry and promotions were more frequent.

On another hot-button topic, North Side Alderman Debra Silverstein asked Ford about suggestions that Fire Truck manpower be reduced. Ford said that was part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and he refused to speak to it.

The issue is a flashpoint with the Firefighters’ union who, like Silverstein, would fight it.