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Tone at the Top

Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013

From Merit Matters, 12 Sep 2013:

Court Monitor Mark Cohen submitted a Periodic Report To The Court yesterday indicating that his review of FDNY recruitment and EEO reports “make it clear that more work remains to be done” in specific areas, including the Tone at the Top. Here is his review:

Research by the Monitor, the City, and their respective consultants makes clear that lasting and effective advances in diversity consistent with the Modified Remedial Order will require unambiguous, sustained and vocal support from FDNY leadership. Significant progress has been made, but the “tone at the top” must be sustained, and it should not be limited to the senior-most ranks of the department. Concrete, positive messages regarding diversity and the remediation process should be clearly and frequently voiced by officers at all levels of the FDNY, from the Commissioner down to the division and firehouse level. The city should update the Monitor on its “tone at the top” messaging on a regular basis.

The late Augustus "Gus" Beekman former FDNY C-o-D and Fire Commissioner

The late Augustus “Gus” Beekman former FDNY C-o-D and Fire Commissioner

Allow me to provide an update along with a history lesson.

First, the lesson. In the early 1990s Mayor David Dinkins and Personnel Director Douglas White (currently part of the FDNY Administration) attempted to end testing for the rank of FDNY Captain in favor of an appointment system in order to increase the number of minorities and women in that rank and the ones above. This intent, revealed in a memo from Mr. White, was vigorously opposed by the city’s first Hispanic Fire Commissioner, Carlos Rivera. “The cure would be worse than the illness” wrote Commissioner Rivera in a letter to Mr. White. “The use of discretionary appointments to exclude (white candidates for captain) would be extremely disruptive to the social fabric of our department”.

Continuing our lesson we turn to Gus Beekman, a black FDNY Commissioner (although not the first one). In WNYF 1/74 Commissioner Beekman, at the time a Staff Chief, wrote that “human nature resists performing up to maximum potential without the influence of motivating or compelling forces. In the Fire Department such forces are expressed in the form of recruitment and promotion standards, the administration of competitive examinations, and the recording of comparative performance ratings…any pressures applied by the Fire Department are designed to propel men forward rather than to hold them back”. Based on these quotes it has been made clear that the tone expressed by both a black and Hispanic Fire Commissioner would not be acceptable to Mr. Cohen. Neither will the tone I will now express in my update.

I would like to see unambiguous, sustained and vocal support from FDNY leadership for the concepts of safety, equal treatment, high standards and color blind decision making. I would like to see the Administration enforce the FDNY EEO Policy Statement as it calls for employment decisions to be made without regard to color, gender, race or religion – that means no quotas, no disciplinary disparity, no targeted recruitment. I would like to see the EEO Unit recognize that it harms its ostensible mission by employing firefighters who support racist and sexist employment policies as EEO instructors.

I will not transmit positive messages about the remediation process as that process discriminates based on race. I will repeat my concrete position on diversity: I don’t care if the FDNY is all black, or all female, or all Asian or even all white as long as all are competent and earned the job on merit. I have and will clearly and frequently voice my opposition to any and all who put their ideology or their careers ahead of the safety of NYC residents and firefighters.

Diversity for the sake of diversity is dangerous and unacceptable, even if it does provide employment for EEO professionals and a wide array of consultants as well as cash payouts for the perpetually offended. This concept, and the accompanying odious practices installed to achieve it, will continue to be opposed by Merit Matters (the most diverse group concerned with the FDNY – a diversity achieved organically, by presenting positions that reasonable people of all groups support).

– Paul Mannix, President – Merit Matters

Read the original article here.