A step forward for a diverse FDNY

The recruitment statistics released this week by the New York City Fire Department show that where there’s a will, there is diversity. The challenge now is for recruitment to translate into hirings.

After years of criticism and lawsuits for discriminatory practices, the FDNY announced that a record number of Latinos, African Americans, Asians and females took the latest firefighter exam, which is given every four years.

Of the 42,161 people who took the exam in March and April, 19,260 were minority applicants -9,582 Hispanic and 1,952 female (67% of them women of color). Every group showed significant increases compared to the previous exam in 2007.

This overdue positive steps is the first phase of reform. The historically white-male dominated FDNY has long failed to reflect the diversity of this city. Currently, out of New York’s 10,000 firefighters, 6% are Hispanic. New York’s Latino population is at 30%.

This year’s pool of applicants should shut down the myth that minority groups are not interested in joining the FDNY.

Now, the Department must continue to show its commitment to equal opportunity and diversity and conduct a fair selection process. This should include a strict proof of residency –––a requirement that can boost the applicant’s chance of being hired- to ensure that new firefighters truly are New York City residents. This is important because the perception is that the Department has helped many non-city residents, who tend to be white, land jobs at the FDNY.

Since there are only 3,500 open positions, New Yorkers will be closely watching the selection process and waiting to hear how many of the new firefighters come from the communities long sidelined from firefighting.