Coalition Wants Reform Within CFD To Address Lack Of Black Firefighters

When it comes to its racial makeup, the Chicago Fire Department’s ranks don’t come close to reflecting the city’s Black population, which stands at about 29%. And if the current hiring trends within the department continue, those numbers within the CFD’s sworn ranks will only rapidly diminish. 

That’s why a coalition of Black Firefighters and city officials gathered to call for complete reform of the CFD’s hiring practices, which have disadvantaged candidates of color for generations. 

“The thought that you would take the test, the thought that you will go through all of these changes to become a firefighter, and then still have obstacles in the way. We’re not gonna even talk about the last testing where there were 49 candidates, and only three of them looked like us. That is a problem with a broken system,” said Ald. Jeanette Taylor, one of the city alderpersons at the Black Fire Coalition Media Breakfast.

Black Fire Coalition Media Breakfast

In a show of support, Moore and fellow Alds. Pat Dowell, Jeanette Taylor, David Moore, Lamont Robinson and Ronnie Mosley joined members of the Black Fire Coalition at Bronzeville’s Parkway Social to expose the generations-old discriminatory hiring practices within the CFD. 

The Chicago Fire Department was required to abide by a consent decree established in 1980 to hire and promote more Black firefighters so that its ranks were equivalent to Chicago’s Black population. That decree was dissolved in 2022, at a time when the number of Black firefighters within the department remained disproportionately low, nearly equal to the number back in 1980.

According to data provided by the Black Fire Coalition, there were 602 Blacks in all sworn ranks within the CFD in 2022, one less than the number from 1980. If the current trend continues, the coalition asserts, by 2045, Black firefighters would only comprise about 3% of those ranks. 

“We all know what the problem is, it’s white supremacy,” said Mark O’Bannon, a retired Chicago Fire Fighter and former captain. 

“We demand that this history, this pattern, this practice, this behavior, this idea and reality, needs to come to an end,” O’Bannon said. 

Black Fire Coalition Media Breakfast

The Black Fire Coalition is calling for re-establishing a consent decree to foster the hiring and promotion of more Black firefighters. 

In addition to that goal, they have also called for the following:

  • The enforcement of Appendix G in the Chicago Fire Fighters Union Labor Contract: An Equal Opportunity provision mandating that the CFD have 45% of its new hires from the Black and Hispanic communities. 
  • Establishing a community advisory board comprised of members from the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American communities to ensure that the CFD adheres to the affirmative action provision of Appendix G.
  • The Mayoral appointment of an Affirmative Action/DEI officer within the department.

At Friday’s press conference, one of the speakers said that the CFD’s hiring practices have served to stifle the ambitions of young Black people from becoming firefighters. 

“Blacks want to be firefighters; they look forward to being firefighters,” said Quention Curtis of the Black Fire Brigade, an organization dedicated to recruiting, training and providing employment opportunities to African-American youth to become firefighters and medical technicians. 

Curtis said that the city of Chicago has failed to “hire blacks in all capacities.”

“We need to step up and stand up and be accounted for, and we’re gonna continue to fight this fight,” he said. 


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