A group of black firefighters are demanding the U.S. Department of Justice expand their investigation into the Chicago Police Department to include the Chicago Fire Department.
Alleging racism and incompetence from the department’s head, the group is calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire CFD Commissioner Jose Santiago. They say Santiago has failed to provide adequate leadership or hire and promote African Americans, even after a 2011 federal court order to do so.
The founder of African American Firefighters and Paramedics League of Chicago claims blacks face stricter discipline in the department, and the mismanagement is costing the taxpayers’ money.
“We’re calling on the Justice Department to look at the hiring practices of the city of Chicago,” said President of the AAFPL Gregory Boggs. “We want the Justice Department to come in before any hiring is done.”
More than two dozen firefighters and community leaders rallied for reform Thursday morning, some whom alleged unjust demotions and unfair hiring practices in the department.
Captain Carmelita Wiley-Erls said she was demoted four days in 2011 after reporting a superior was having sex in the Fire Department Academy building.
“I’m asking the Justice Department, I’m your poster child,” she said. “Tell me what I have done to deserve what I’ve gotten.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, saying the city has been actively working with the Department of Justice to ensure fair hiring for decades.
“Since 1980 the DOJ has been working with the fire department on their promotion policy and we’ve been cooperating and working with them and we will continue to do that,” he said.
Emanuel argued the city is doing what it can to provide equal access to CFD jobs.
“At every level, that aspiration or that goal of equal opportunity or equal access exists and we will continue to work at it,” he said.
The Chicago Fire Department did not return a request for comment.