COVER STORY

TRIAL BY FIRE

On the cusp of retirement, Jacksonville's first class of black firefighters speaks out about what they've endured — and what the department's future holds

James Edwards and Terrance Jones
Dennis Ho
Prella Hollie
Dennis Ho
James Edwards
Dennis Ho
Ricky Adams
Dennis Ho
Terrance Jones
Dennis Ho
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“Hey, Otis, come over here.”

When his captain used that nickname, James Edwards thought of it like someone beckoning him with a “Hey, fella.” No big deal. Edwards was new to the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department in 1988, a 22-year-old rookie with a college degree and not a lot of experience with middle-aged white racists.

It was his father who explained to him that “Otis” was a slur, a way to reduce black men to generic buffoons.

When James McKinney’s lieutenant said he looked like someone who could pick out a good watermelon, the 19-year-old didn’t realize that he was being demeaned. He was new and eager to impress. If his lieutenant wanted a watermelon, he’d find one. He looked over the watermelons stacked in the grocery store while his lieutenant picked up other supplies for the crew. He saw it as an opportunity.

“I picked out what I thought would be the best watermelon there,” the engineer says with a rueful laugh.

“We were so young, we didn’t really know what was going on,” says Edwards, now a captain himself and the president of the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters, a black fraternal organization. “Now that I’m 48 years old, I say, ‘Dog, man, all I that time I thought they were joking with me, and there was some kind of racist connotation to what they were doing.’”

Racist slights, physical threats and abject disrespect were everyday occurrences for black firefighters at JFRD — from the first two African-Americans hired in 1969 and 1970, through the blacks hired by court order in the ’80s, even still today. When blacks joined the department in a hiring wave from 1987 to 1992, some of their white colleagues let it be known they weren’t welcome. The JFRD and the firefighters union also gamed the bureaucracy to give whites in the department an advantage — and when blacks complained, they were punished.

Change came through lawsuits. The department was forced into hiring blacks by lawsuit, into promoting them by lawsuits, into establishing standardized assessment methods by lawsuit. And many white firefighters resented it.

“There was always something done to make the wall higher,” says Alonza Bronner, who in 1970 became the city’s second black firefighter. “If African-Americans started moving up the ranks, they changed the rules.”

The firefighters who spoke with Folio Weekly for this story haven’t told their stories before. Decades after joining JFRD, they’re now approaching retirement. Most are plaintiffs in the six lawsuits the city faces, either as individuals or through the Brotherhood, and were hired after a court order forced JFRD to hire one black for every white to meet the requirements of a 1971 legal settlement.

Many of those 180 blacks hired between 1987 and 1992 who are still working for the fire department are now district chiefs, captains, lieutenants and engineers. They fought the prejudice, and did more than survive. They excelled. But they look behind them and see that there isn’t a generation in the wings waiting to take their places. In five years, there will be no black district chiefs, no black captains, only 10 black lieutenants. And it will take a decade for firefighters hired today to work their way into leadership.

“We are the last group,” Edwards says. “We are the baby group and a bunch of us are leaving. We just want to give people an opportunity, like I had.”

“It’s going to be a miserable death.”

“Some of you ain’t going to make it today.”

Every day, when he arrived at the fire academy in the summer of 1988, Terrance Jones remembers hearing that refrain from his white instructors, followed by some dangerous exercise or another. For the black recruits, who were trained in all-black or mostly black classes, the training was especially brutal.

During his first week at the fire academy on Stockton Street, Jones recalls his white instructors bringing out the tallest ladder in their arsenal — a 110-foot extension ladder — and extending it up six stories over the I-10 overpass. They told the recruits to climb it in their firefighting gear.

The recruits had received no instruction in putting on their 47 pounds of bunker gear or how to climb ladders safely. Nonetheless, the instructors, believing blacks were scared of heights, told them to put on their gear, climb to the top of the ladder — with cars whizzing by underneath them on the interstate — lock in, lean back and clap their hands over their heads.

They didn’t know what locking in meant. And the ladder wasn’t secured to anything.

“Mind you, we don’t have gear that is properly sized,” recalls Jones, now the Brotherhood’s vice president. “We don’t know how to put on gear. We aren’t comfortable wearing our gear just walking around.”

If a man slipped, he’d be dead.

“It added to the intimidation factor,” Jones says. “You fall off, you’re going to get hit by a car. It’s going to be a miserable death.”

Edwards says the instructors also believed that African-Americans were claustrophobic and would panic inside a maze meant to duplicate conditions in a burning house. As part of their training, all recruits got into the maze, and then the instructors cut the oxygen supply to see if they’d remain calm. Everyone performed this exercise back then, but what was usually done for second or two for white trainees would be extended up to a minute or more for blacks.

Jones says he overheard his white instructors taking bets on how many of the black recruits they could get to quit. But the race-baiting and hostility backfired. It united the black recruits and made them more determined to prove themselves.

“I already put it in my head, come hell or high water, I’m going to finish,” Jones says.

The black firefighters banded together to study for their written exams. Lieutenant Rickey Adams, who graduated with Jones, remembers the reaction: “These scores are pretty high. Ba-boom. Someone’s cheating.”

Once the black firefighters cleared the hurdles put in front of them, the adversity they’d overcome worked to their advantage. Just one class of 13 black recruits eventually produced a black division chief, a black district chief, five black captains, two black lieutenants and four black engineers. 

“Look at that class right there,” Edwards says. “We are highest-ranking African-Americans on the job.”

“Because we were subjected to so much scrutiny, you made us sharper than sharp,” Jones adds. “Thank you!”

“This is still the South.”

Oliviette Coffey was the lead plaintiff in a federal class action lawsuit filed in 1971 charging that the city discriminated against blacks in hiring firefighters. The plaintiffs had a strong case: There were only two black firefighters on the force.

To address the imbalance, the city signed a consent decree in which it agreed to hire more blacks. But more than a decade passed between that 1971 settlement and the city actually undertaking efforts to recruit blacks in significant numbers, and that came about only because the plaintiffs went back to court and, in 1982, a federal judge ordered the city to hire one black for every white until the ratio in the department matched that of the population of the city, about 30 percent at the time.

It was still another five years before the city actually began the hiring. Between 1987 and 1992, the city launched a major recruitment effort to hire blacks. JFRD attracted military veterans, junior college students and college graduates to a white force where most of their superiors had high school diplomas.

The city unilaterally decided in 1992 that it had met the requirements of that settlement, and no longer needed to do one-for-one hiring. But it never sought the court’s approval. So a new generation of blacks took the city back to court, and in 2009, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan reopened the 1971 case, which is still pending today.

In their request to reopen the case and declare that the city had violated the agreement, the plaintiffs’ attorneys reported that between 1993 and 2007, the city hired only 95 black firefighters, compared to 653 whites.

“You go out to the fire academy and look on the wall of every graduating class. Look at the pictures and see how many black faces you see,” says Wanda Butler, who retired as a firefighter in 2006 after 27 years with JFRD.

There are currently six federal lawsuits alleging hiring discrimination, promotions discrimination and a hostile workplace at JFRD — lawsuits joined by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the Department of Justice, the NAACP, the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters and 26 individual firefighters.

So far, the city hasn’t offered any meaningful settlement during mediation sessions conducted over the past five years. The problem, Adams says, is that Jacksonville won’t admit it has a problem. “Just based on this city and its history, I think they will fight it tooth and nail, regardless of what the costs. This is still the South. It is still Jacksonville. We’ve made progress, but this is still a racist city.”

Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt declined to comment for this story because doing so might jeopardize the pending litigation.

“Was it crushing? Well, yeah.”

At 22, James Edwards was back in Jacksonville, living with his mother and working as a substitute teacher. He’d earned a bachelor’s degree in American history at Western Kentucky University. He figured he’d teach high school eventually, after he’d finished playing football.

Edwards had been a football star at Andrew Jackson Senior High School. He played for WKU on scholarship. (The school inducted him into its Hall of Fame last year.) When he graduated, the NFL was interested. The Miami Dolphins picked him up, and he played for the legendary Don Shula, but only for seven weeks, and then he was cut.

“Football, that’s all I wanted to do. Not going to lie. I went to college to play football,” Edwards says. “Was it crushing? Well, yeah. All your life as a kid, you dream of playing in the league.”

Edwards was up late one night watching television when he caught a commercial for the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department. The JFRD was recruiting minority candidates. Two banks were offering loans for the fire academy at low interest rates. When the recruit got hired, the bank would take the payments out of his salary.

Within three weeks of being cut by Miami, Edwards was in training to become a firefighter. Then his agent called: “New Orleans wants you to come out.” But by then, Edwards felt like he had a sure thing with the city. “I was deep into the fire department. ‘Naw, I’m already here. I’ll stay with the fire services.’ I could have went out there and just got cut again.”

But the reality of the fire department was a rude awakening for the ex-football star.

The city had been forced into hiring black recruits by the Coffey lawsuit, and white firefighters made sure they knew they weren’t wanted. During training, Edwards says, the white instructors looked for any excuse to flunk the black candidates.

When Edwards arrived at his assigned fire station after making it through training, no one would shake his hand. His captain sneeringly asked him what his sob story was. Had he been raised by a single mom? Had he been homeless? The captain also had a thing about calling all black men “Otis.” It was a joke, and it wasn’t.

“In all my dealings with white males, I had never dealt with that type of judgmental attitude,” Edwards says.

That disrespect was even more prevalent if you happened to be black and a woman. 

Wanda Jones, who joined the fire department in 1979, was as one of the department’s first female recruits. She slept in the same dorms as the men, without any privacy. When she arose before the others to get dressed, another firefighter would throw off his sheets and masturbate while she walked to the restroom. Another of her fellow firefighters often laced his diatribes with the N-word, she says. Complaining was useless.

“They thought it was funny,” she says. When she was finally transferred to a more hospitable station, the difference was dramatic. “I thought I died and went to heaven. They actually knew my name was Wanda.”

“I’m going to push back.”

Terrance Jones had a plan: finish his AA degree at Florida Junior College (now Florida State College at Jacksonville) and then enter the military. He’d been in ROTC at Englewood High School. He’d go straight to officer candidate school.

But his best friend, Da’mon Johnson, had other ideas. Johnson’s father was a Vietnam veteran with bitter memories of his treatment in the Army.

When Jones refused to drop the military idea, Johnson, a firefighter himself, went to FJC, impersonated him and dropped him out of all his classes, then enlisted him in the fire academy and paid the $240 tuition.

Jones was angry, but it was too late to switch back. “He knew me and knew how competitive I was,” Jones says. “He knew it would not be fair. And he knew, if you do me like that, I’m going to push back.”

Jones wouldn’t stand for intimidation by his overweight and less-educated white instructors, and he let them know it. At 18 years of age, 6-foot-4-inches and 215 pounds, he was imposing and possessed of a quick mind. When an instructor insulted him, Jones responded sardonically, in a hyperbolic suck-up voice, “I’m encouraged daily by your presence.” 

If men of their inferior physique and intelligence could be firefighters, he reasoned, so could he.

He would offer to go first when the white instructors ordered the trainees to climb ladders, crawl through mazes or jump out of a three-story window into a net.

“Keep in mind, the fire department is an extension of the city we live in,” he says. “So the feelings, the racial feelings in the street will be in the fire department. It’s not going to be any different. It’s entrenched in the South, and it’s entrenched in Jacksonville.”

Jones was usually the only black firefighter on his shift. The prejudice was in his face. 

“They would say racial stuff,” he says. “Lot of white officers didn’t want blacks to drive them in a fire truck. They’d say, ‘Ain’t no nigger ever going to drive me.’ If you had to transfer to another station for the day, they’d go ballistic with the chief. ‘I already got one.’ They were trying to ease us into [the white firefighters] without offending them, but our presence offended them.”

The racism didn’t just infect relations within the department; it also tainted the quality of the service they provided. Several of the black firefighters say that in poor black neighborhoods, firefighters would needlessly tear down ceilings, knock down walls and throw people’s possessions on the street. In Mandarin, they’d put down runners so as not to ruin the carpeting.

“They just waved a magic wand.”

JFRD preserved white dominance by gaming the rules.

Prior to 1979, a firefighter moved through the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant to captain to district chief. But that year, the city added the rank of engineer, which paid a little more than firefighter — so it was a welcome addition — and was introduced as an appointed position that didn’t affect a firefighter’s opportunity to test for lieutenant after three years on the job.

The department appointed more than 300 white firefighters to that rank, then changed the rules. To be an engineer, firefighters had to test for it, not just be appointed. And then, just before JFRD began its one-for-one hiring in 1987, came another change. 

The department moved the engineer rank into the line of promotion, which meant that before the new black recruits could test for lieutenant, they’d have to first become engineers.

At the time of that change, about 91 black firefighters were eligible to take the exam for promotion to lieutenant. Afterward, only 11 were. The rest had to become engineers first. But 75 percent of whites who were eligible to take the lieutenant test — 300 of 400 — remained eligible.

“They just waved a magic wand and all 300 spots were filled,” Jones says. “Then we had to wait a couple of years for someone to retire to take the test.”

“You can’t put out a fire with no book.”

While firefighting is a physical job, promotions are decided only by scores on a multiple-choice test. The highest scorers enter the leadership ranks based on the test results, with no additional training in employee management or leadership skills.

In a lawsuit filed in 2011 by 26 African-American firefighters and joined by the Department of Justice and others in 2012, the firefighters allege that the exams don’t test for the skills actually needed on the job. Most other fire departments, as well as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, give both a written exam and oral exams along with performance evaluations based on real-life scenarios.

“My rank is higher than lot of African-Americans,” Edwards says. “I had a college background and it’s a multiple-choice test. It ain’t really testing your skills, it’s testing your recall ability. Book and pencil work. I can do that all day.”

But that’s not what you need to be a good captain. “You can’t put out a fire with no book. You can’t put out a fire with no pencil,” Edwards says. “You got to have some physicality. You got to have leadership skills. It’s a vocational job. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. You’ve got to have a little bit of courage and a little bit of heart to go in there and do the job.”

For years, black firefighters have suspected that some of their white counterparts score well on the exams because they’ve been coached. In a deposition in 2008, District Chief Steven Gerbert admitted that he used test questions from past exams for study sessions (presumably for white firefighters) at his house — which the blacks took as evidence of their suspicions.

In a separate lawsuit, Jones alleges that the methods used to prepare the tests give department officials inside information about the tests’ questions, and this information is then shared with favored white firefighters.

“I’m not an angry black man.”

Engineer Prella Hollie joined the fire department in 2000 after retiring from the Army with 20 years of service. He retired on 80 percent disability, the result of torn-up shoulders and knees. He also retired having served as a master sergeant and drill sergeant in the Army. He came to JFRD understanding how a paramilitary operation works. But his skills weren’t wanted, he says. Instead, he was threatened and punished for sticking up for himself. After 14 years in JFRD, he’s just hoping to be left alone until he can retire. 

“I came on thinking because I was from the military, they would like me,” he says.

He says an officer at the first fire station he was assigned to screamed at him when he put in for a transfer to a station closer to his home: “I’ll kill that black motherfucker.” When Hollie filled out an EEOC complaint and went to the city’s employment advisor, he didn’t get much help. One counselor told him to think about a different line of work. Another told him to pray for a good outcome.

When he first took the test for engineer, Hollie ranked fourth on the list and received the promotion. He’d had 10 points added to his score because he’s a disabled veteran. But a few months later, the department stripped him of the rank, telling him he shouldn’t have been given the military disability points. When he achieved the rank of engineer a second time, a lieutenant told him nobody wanted him because he’s a troublemaker.

“I’m not an angry black man,” he says. “I was the equal opportunity representative in the military. I went from top of my class to troublemaker because I stood up for myself.”

“The same chance we did.”

After the Coffey suit was re-filed in 2007, JFRD again began recruiting blacks in earnest. 

Then-Chief Dan Kleman started a cadet school in which a firefighter could receive paid on-the-job training while attending the fire academy. The department also started a program to groom future firefighters at A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology High School. But these efforts were hindered by the recession and complaints from white firefighters that blacks were being coddled; both have been discontinued.

There are still opportunities for black would-be firefighters today. In fact, if an African-American completes the fire academy and receives his state certification as an emergency medical technician or paramedic, he has a very good chance of being hired. But the cost to get certified can be prohibitive, as much as $10,000 for all the training — and there isn’t any financial aid available.

“We don’t say not to hire blacks any more, but we have a system in place that we can’t penetrate because we don’t have the money and we can’t use scholarship money, can’t use grants,” Jones says. 

“People just need an opportunity,” Edwards adds. “You never know what somebody can be until you give them a chance. We just want others to have the same chance that we did.”

No matter what the city does now, it can’t fix a looming problem. Most of the JFRD’s black officers are about to retire. And there are very few blacks ready to take their places.

“I’m ending my career at a beautiful station [on Heckscher Drive],” Jones says. “I have no complaints if it ends like this. But I can’t sit back and let evil continue to exist. The next generation is not as strong as us, so I want to level the playing field before I leave.”

14 comments on this story | Add your comment
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Mickey

This story was written with a little miss-information to the average reader in aJacksonville. First, the first class of black firefighters took place in January of 1972, not in the late 1980's and many hundreds more were hired prior to the class of 88'. Secondly, the Otis name that was common on the JFRD was never a racial slur in any form of fashion. It was a name than was used at a west-side fire station for a particular firefighter whom happened to have a O as his middle initial. The Otis name started in the early fall of 1972 and the name was used by many west-side firefighters....,they called everyone Otis.

I am not sure to what reference or information Folio used to writing the article, but, the truth usually sounds the best. The amount of future officers can be predicted by active promotional and the DROP list from the Pension fund. Thursday, May 29|Report this

DICKEY

Just have one comment to make,the first group of black firefighter actually happen in 1988 and not 1972,beacuse I was in that first class.They may have hired a few blacks in 1972 and there after,but the real hiring came in 1988.When I showed up to my first assignment,I was told by my officer that they have not seen this many blacks hired at one time.This article is right on point,I know many probably wont like it,but that's just the way things were.I do believe things have gotten better,but still have a ways to go.

Dickey Thursday, May 29|Report this

JFRD001

WOW Friday, May 30|Report this

JFRD001

This story is spot on. Blacks have never been welcome at JFRD. Any black man/woman is assumed to be taking a job away from a deserving white man. JFRD and the Union are very adept at self promotion. The part about going above and beyond in poorer black and white neighborhoods to aggressively do extra damage disguised as training is very true. Its taught early on that these "people" belongings are not worth as much as other neighborhoods. This is an absolute SHAM. Sad part is that once Chiefs Mote and Senterfitt retire and by default if Chief Wilson assumes the top seat then that's where all progress gained regresses. Chief Wilson is the hand picked puppet of the Union and will do its bidding. 7 more years and I'm done Friday, May 30|Report this

tajones23

In response to Mickey. The Coffey case is currently in federal court. You can look it up read about it. You can also read about the other six lawsuits read the sworn testimony of the previous chief general counsel Rohan, Cindy, the union president, and previous fire chiefs. That will clear up the rumor mill and offer more understanding as to how we got here. Otis is character from the Andy Griffith show. He was a drunk hillbilly kept getting arrested and talked a bunch of non-sense. It was also a skit performed on the Amos and Andy show. The character displayed stereotypical of poor and uneducated black men. It was performed by the shows creator in black face, then performed by the two black men themselves. You can watch the episodes on you tube. The entertainment industry used to only show programs reinforced this behavior and images. Leroy was another name they used. Most of the firemen of the late eighties and early nineties grew up in that era. It wasn't a class hired in 1972. It was one or two at a time. It wasn't until 1987 when you can actually reference a hiring class. This occurred only after the federal government stopped funding to the Dames Pointe Bridge. The federal government is about the stop funding again if the fire department and city of Jax don't release the required documents requested by the Department of Justice. Please don't think that these conditions or behaviors stayed this way. Behaviors began to change. You cant spend a third of your life with someone and not like them. They began to realize that we were no different than their kids. That is because we went to school and played sports along side their children. same remained racist and rotten to the core. The old school guys had the issue. The people hired with me didn't have a issue. We became and remained our brothers keeper. Friday, May 30|Report this

BLAHBLAH

OK, I have read this entire article and have to admit that some of this may be true. Some of the facts that I have read are the early hiring practices of the department were definitely on the unfair side, when the original African-Americans were hired the treatment may not have been the best and their was racism. I am not sure regarding the dates all of this went down because that is not really even relevant. This does not touch the fact that when many white Firefighters tried to apply in the early 90's we were met with a sign stating "White Applicants Need Not Apply".

The facts are, there are lawsuits currently filed by the Brotherhood of Firefighters for not promoting African-Americans when they take the same test the rest of the entire Department does. A little known fact is, this same Brotherhood of Firefighters fighting for the fare promotion of African-American Firefighters and are claiming that when they leave their will be few Officers to take their place sent a letter to the General Councils Office trying to stop promotions. This letter stated there was no need to promote 12 Rescue Lieutenant's to Rescue Roving Captain's replacing the current Roving Lieutenants giving them permanent positions. Out of those 12 positions 6 were minorities. Out of these minorities 3 were African-American. 2 male and 1 female. There were also 2 White females and 1 Asian male.

How can this organization that claims to be fighting for equality for minorities choose the minorities they represent? If this is the case then are they not just as guilty as the original crews on the job they are complaining about not treating them fairly? Is this not discrimination? When there is constant complaining of racism and unfair treatment by the same group of African- American's don't you think it might be time someone looks in the mirror to see if they might be the problem and quit pointing fingers.. I have countless friends that are African-American's retired and still on the job that know I would give them the shirt off my back, I have spoken to them and they have told me that they were NEVER treated unfairly, with racism or any different than any other part of the crew.

As far as the Fire Departments promotional process goes. How is it unfair when the test is announced, everyone finds out the same day, everyone signs up the same time and everyone finds out what the reading material is the same time. You then have the same amount of time to study (a minimum of 60 days) and then you all take the test the same day . You claim Steve Gerbert had study sessions for white's and that is unfair but how is that different than the claims that the Brotherhood meetings were having study sessions for African-Americans?

The fact is, the harder you study, the higher you are on the promotional list !!!!

As Rodney King once said "Can't we all just get along"?

When is enough going to be enough? All of this suing and bantering back and forth is ruining a great job. The past is the past, let it go and please stop feeding the younger generations with the dislike and anger you currently are exhibiting.

Saturday, May 31|Report this

JFRD001

What's missing from BlahBlah's post is this. Over the previous years white firefighters have been promoted at a rate of nearly 95%. These positions are tied up indefinitely. In addition to the "boot buying" that is coordinated through Chief Wilson's office potential future positions to be tested for are locked up by the slight of hand cash in brown bag rule, unethical to say the least. Are we really to want the public to believe that we are living paycheck to paycheck when we routinely deliver $15000 to $40000 in undocumented cash for other to retire and we can lock up that slot where it doesn't have to be openly competed for. You want me to list the names of the buyers? Trust me I can. In regards to the disputed promotions that is attributed to the JBOF that just silly. Never, and I mean never has the JBOF been consulted about promotions. In all likelihood that was probably a budgetary decision made by the Administration. Furthermore, you mention 2 black males. I count 1. Having a black skin complexion doesn't make you black. Geewhiz Saturday, May 31|Report this

BLAHBLAH

JFRD001, regarding the alleged boot buying you are talking about. I am quite sure if you provided a list of names, I am willing to bet none of them would be African-Americans. Can you say the same for test buying when canceled checks were found as evidence. Of course, this was years ago and a previous testing system and before it was farmed out to a testing agency.

As far as the JBOF getting involved in sending letters to the General Councils office, I have a copy of the letter which is signed by the President of the Brotherhood. It was sent to Cindy in October 2013. Makes you wonder why Cindy has since stepped down from the General Councils Office. If you will please look at the list again, out of the 6 minorities, 3 were black, 2 male and 1 female and I did not mention skin color you did. Now who is being a racist?

I would like to thank you because you just proved my point. If the Brotherhood was truly concerned with the fare advancement of minorities why would skin color be an issue? If you are a minority, you are a minority regardless of skin color. Saturday, May 31|Report this

BLAHBLAH

I forgot to mention, You stated that 95% of the promotions are filled by white's. Like I stated in my very fist post, the harder you study the higher you are on the promotional list. If the individuals spent as much time really and truly studying as they do filing lawsuits, complaining about a great job and teaching new hires hatred we may not be having this conversation. Could it be that your organization blames the Chief you list for everything, because other high ranking Chiefs are part of your organization?

Now as also stated, the Bantering back and forth has got to stop. How is all of this improving a great job. I have since retired and proud to say I was a Jacksonville Firefighter. For everyone, past, present, and future firefighters. Please stop all of this and allow individuals to promote on their own abilities of recall from the reading material. After all, if you can't recall study material how can you recall your SOP's or medical training when it may be one of my family members or God forbid one of your family members in need.

We are all family regardless of color !!!!! Saturday, May 31|Report this

JFRD001

BlahBlah...If such a letter exists then why has it never been made public? I would like to see it as would everyone else I'm sure. You state that this a great job. I say its a good job that is getting better. Depending on which side of the aisle you sit you'll have a different perspective. It should be inclusive where everyone feels appreciated and wanted. When a small minority of middle managers(captains and district/battalion chiefs) continue to push their carbolic agendas instead of allowing fresh ideas and inclusiveness of everyone then these attitudes will continue. You may share progressive ideas but its the middle managers and their influence over these younger and newer groups of firefighters that will keep the animosity stirred up. Like I said, its a good job not a professional one like JSO. We want to build ourself to be this big bad educated workforce when in actuality we hold vocational certificates and a bullshit 2 year ASS from FSCJ. This is absolutely the worst environment for peace. We have convinced ourselves that we truly are some firefighting warriors when we just practice destruction and demolition in poor black and white neighborhoods. Is that really fair? Saturday, May 31|Report this

BLAHBLAH

JFRD001,

I would be more than happy to get you a copy of the letter if you would provide me a way to get it to you. I assure you that I am being 100% honest with you as I really have no reason to lie.

As for your comment regarding the education of the firefighters. You state that "we have BS vocational ASS degree's with vocational certifications. The only thing I can say is look back at my first post. The harder you study the higher you get. I believe there are members of the brotherhood like myself that have 4 year degrees as well as further education, oh yea, plus vocational training. See this all goes back to the blame game. Don't balm anyone but yourself for your education. If you are not willing to work for something hard enough to better yourself whose fault is that. Not anyone but yourself... Saturday, May 31|Report this

IMPARTIAL

"But the cost to get certified can be prohibitive, as much as $10,000 for all the training — and there isn’t any financial aid available.

“We don’t say not to hire blacks any more, but we have a system in place that we can’t penetrate because we don’t have the money and we can’t use scholarship money, can’t use grants,” Jones says."

I agree that going through the certification process is expensive. I grew up poor and didn't have a dad. I overcame it and joined the military and paid for my education through four years of hard work and separation from my loved ones. That being said, between all parties involved in this discussion, why can't you not provide a scholarship through the JBOF? What does a Captain make these days? 78k base? That's a lot more than I've ever made... Instead of running to the press and taking pictures in your dress uniforms, take matters into your own hands Be a mentor. Be a role model. Raise money for the young black men in our community to get certified. Stop running to lawyers and do something about it.

What is this article trying to accomplish? Sunday, June 1|Report this

JFRD001

95 African Americans to 653 whites. How does one justify the disparity? Even to you non racists I would welcome your explanations or suggestions of how this could occur. There were numerous African Americans certified and approved for hire but were intentionally bypassed to achieve the results we see today. All have since become discouraged and moved on to other vocations and careers.. Those numbers can never be replaced. No one wants to acknowledge that this was an absolute atrocity and has left a void that leaves a gap wider than it ever was. Speaking of mentorships, there are several people actively trying to reach out to interest younger people in the Fire Service but it's a daunting task because the perception is that the JFRD is a anti minority and anti gay mafia system. Despite these public attempts to display the JFRD in a positive light it's hard to convince pockets of our community that JFRD doesn't tolerate and condone the reckless and needless destruction of poor black and white folks property. Sunday, June 1|Report this

tajones23

In response to blah blah. I can easily take offense to your login name. blah blah means that my opinion is not worth acknowledging. But, I won't. This article wasn't meant to divide and cause confusion. It was meant to make both sides talk about the giant pink elephant that's in the room who's taking a dump in the corner, its starting to smell, and no one wants to acknowledge that he's here. Before this article, the JBOF attempted on multiple occasions to talk to the union leadership, this and previous administrations, and the city of Jax about issues that the members of the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters (JBOF) deem important. This wasnt a Capt Edwards and Capt Jones show. The membership spelled out the agenda for the JBOF leadership to pursue. Please, stop dissing the JBOF. We are union members too. We are not at odds with the union membership. We have issues with the union leaderships agenda. We have been for years. Psst. So are some of the other union members who are not black. Chiefs negotiating benefits for firefighters to captains, and firefighters to captains having no vote in the chief's separate bargaining unit is retarded. What do you get? FIRE 9. At what sacrifice? Decreased Leave time, no sick leave, brush trucks, utility vehicles and comm van put out of service, transfer those engineers indefinitely or until attrition produce a spot. Thats not a JBOF issue. That is a firefighter to Captain bargaining unit issue. The union leadership negotiates rovers and upgrade positions for a select few individuals depending on who is about to die on top of the list. Whether or not you hear feedback from union members is irrelevant. We (black, white, latino, asian) union members don't like it because it is selective enforcement. It hold the next list hostage. Let it die. Compete again. Please don't talk about that one captain list. The JBOF cannot make the Director do anything. Its his call. We will be the scape goat. To Those African Americans who said that they were not harassed or disrespected, I'm gonna call BS on that one. The fire dept is a reflection of our society. There are a percentage of racist in our community both black and white, therefore, the fire dept will reflect that percentage as well. The federal government and the testing agency deem promotional tests using only multiple choice questions discriminatory and unconstitutional. We test rouge memory only. It does not mean you know what you are doing. You have three types of learners. Visual (Jax fire promotional system), auditory, and hands on. It does not mean superior or inferior. It is how each individual brain is wired to learn. (all races) This is why in fire school, EMT, paramedic, rookie year, we test all three in order to get an accurate assessment of the individual. Correct? So why would we want to limit our assessment of officers to who can remember information from material on a short term basis only? Im going to share a lesson in biology with you. There is a part of your brain called the hippocampus. Its job is to support memory or delete memory or thoughts that are not re-enforced. Therefore; we study (memorize) info for a test. Take the test. Your brain immediately dumps the info. Our promo lists last 2 years. The test taker has forgotten all of the info that is not re-enforced on a day to day basis. The person we promote is the same person they were prior to reading the first page. The visual learner promotional test is just used to triage individuals. Our job is more physical than multiple choice, lets say, we are only going to promote individuals who have a vertical leap of 28 inches. We find that individuals who vertical leap is less than that have a 50 percent chance of obesity and lower back problems. Some BS like. That would over-night increase the qualified candidates toward young firefighters of African American descent and decrease the number of qualified candidates of other races. Lets be honest Black historically do poorly on standardized tests. They tend to live in communities with poor performing schools. Education is tied to money and geography. The only reason the current promotional system is preferred is because the outcome is preferred. As far as the JBOF members belly aching about not being treated fairly, the department of Justice, and federal EEOC thinks otherwise. That means that they have independently discovered a preponderance of evidence that confirms the JBOFs claim. Even if the JBOF says Nah, we dont want to pursue these issues anymore, that still will not stop this train. We have been silent too long. We have tried over and over to find a solution privately only to have the door slammed in our faces multiple times. The JBOF is only interested in fair. Not black. Not white. But Fair. Best man or woman win. Current system is sick, outdated and broken. Our membership dialed 911. The JBOF responded with lights and sirens and Capt Edwards has command. Tuesday, June 3|Report this

 
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