If the Austin Fire Department is going to make progress on the city’s goals of having a Fire Department that reflects the diversity of the Austin community, then it needs to adopt a similar approach to hiring as the city’s Police Department in which the employer – the city of Austin – decides who is hired.
That much is clear, given the failures of the current arrangement that cedes much of that authority to the Austin Firefighters Association. That imbalance needs to be corrected. The current arrangement essentially gives the fire union veto power over the fire chief’s ability to determine how new cadets should be hired. That has failed to achieve city goals. It’s telling that the Fire Department now is under investigation by the Department of Justice for potential patterns of discrimination against Latinos and African-Americans.
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