The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black firefighters renew calls to oust fire chief

Chicago Crusader staff report

Despite the recent promotion and appointments of three Black firefighters, the African American Firefighters & Paramedics League of Chicago (AAFFPL) still wants Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago.

The organization said Santiago is incompetent and lacks integrity. In addition, the AAFFPL say Santiago’s actions are too little, too late. They want the U.S. Department of Justice to expand its investigation to the fire department to examine the department’s hiring practices, and they want a moratorium on hiring until the recommended Justice Department investigation is completed or reform occurs in the agency.

The appointments made by Santiago effective on February 16, 2016 are :

Richard C. Ford III, from Deputy Fire Commissioner Fire Prevention Bureau to 1st Deputy Fire Commissioner; Arriel Gray Jr., from District Chief Fire Prevention Bureau to Deputy Fire Commissioner Fire Prevention Bureau; Charles W. Maes, from Battalion Chief Operations Relief, to Deputy District Chief Operations Relief; and Mark L. Townsend, from Deputy District Chief Operations Relief, to District Chief Fire Prevention Bureau. William C. Vogt, District Chief Special Projects will be reassigned from District Chief Special Projects to Deputy District Chief Operations Relief.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Greg Boggs, president of the AAFFPL. “We have not had any diversity at the top of the fire department. We are very proud of those appointees, especially Ford, Gray and Townsend, who are members of the AAFFPL. “It is a step forward. But, as far as the League goes, we still want the U.S. Justice Department to come in and look at the hiring practices since 2006. We are still saying that Commissioner Jose Santiago has to go for the mismanagement of the fire department. We want a moratorium on the hiring until the U.S. Justice Department can take a look at the way hiring has been done.” –

Boggs said members do not believe the new promotions can reform the department and make things whole. The AAFFPL’s demands, he said, have not shifted since the January 7 press conference outside the Chicago Public Safety Building. At that press event, firefighters called for Santiago’s ouster, saying he has failed to enforce the court consent decree ordering the hiring and promotions of Black firefighters, and he had allowed racism and favoritism to continue to run rampant in the department. Under the consent decree from the AAFFPL’s successful lawsuit in 2011 (Lewis versus the City of Chicago), the city was ordered to hire 111 Black firefighters and pay $30 million to about 6,000 applicants.

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