Sixty-eight recently promoted firefighters and officials were sworn in to their new positions yesterday morning, while dissenting black firefighters continue to protest against Mayor Marion Barry for ordering the Fire Department to conduct the personnel changes.
The Progressive Fire Fighters, a predominantly black fraternity, has sharply criticized the mayor for acting before the conclusion of an Office of Human Rights hearing into alleged discrimination in the department. Yesterday the group released a March 30 letter from Del. Walter E. Fauntroy calling on Barry to hold off any action until the investigation is complete.
A spokesperson for the mayor said: "The mayor says he doesn't know what their the black firefighters' problem is at this point. He's addressed the issue of affirmative action." The spokesperson said the mayor plans to reply to Fauntroy's letter early next week.
The mayor had previously said he would not approve any hiring or promotions until the hearing was completed. But Barry last month ordered city personnel director Jose Gutierrez to hire 88 new firefighters and promote 68 men already in the department.
Of the 68 men promoted yesterday, about 60 percent were white and 40 percent were black. Of the 58 new firefighters who have been hired, there were 37 blacks, 20 whites and 1 Hispanic. The department hired 24 firefighters last April--23 white and one black.
During the promotion ceremonies, held at the D.C. Police Department training academy, Acting Fire Chief Theodore Coleman was promoted twice--to permanent assistant chief for services and acting fire chief.