If a city wants some of the millions of dollars that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security doles out to make us safe from terrorism — and Jacksonville does — it has to fill out an application. And one thing DHS asks about on those applications is discrimination — specifically, if the city is facing any lawsuits or if there have been official findings of discrimination against minorities.
For the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department, the answers to those questions are unequivocally yes and yes.
Yet, while the city received a $5.9 million SAFER grant in January for JFRD to hire 40 new firefighters, it had omitted just that sort of information from its application. And as it turns out, the city didn’t just leave that stuff off the SAFER application, but also on a grant the fire department received in 2012. Oopsies.
(The city’s defense in the JFRD cases basically boils down to the idea that racism is no longer a thing, so maybe that’s why it saw no reason to make note of those silly lawsuits.)
So on March 19, a none-too-happy DHS sent a scathing letter to the city questioning the veracity of the city’s application and announcing it would do a “compliance review” of how the grant is spent: “Far too many instances of unfair or alleged discriminatory treatment grounded upon racial, ethnic, and gender-based differences and disparities … occur and reoccur to be considered merely isolated incidents.”
Good news: DHS didn’t rescind the grant. Instead, the feds are going to scrutinize how the city spends the dough to ensure that it’s “consistent with Title VI’s prohibition against discrimination based on race.” That’s a start.