Case 34: Philadelphia Fire Dept. Racial Quotas:
Affirmative Discrimination

Equal Opportunity NOT Equal Results
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Onerous, Race-Based Consent Decree Dissolved 09-29-2014

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NEWS: Philadelphia Inquirer Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014:

          "A 1975 federal consent decree designed to remedy discrimination against blacks in the Philadelphia Fire Department has been dissolved.

          "As a result of a ruling last week by U.S. District Judge Timothy Rice, Philadelphia is free of the court-ordered hiring requirements put in place to boost the percentage of African Americans serving in the city fire department.

          "When the decree was issued 39 years ago, about 7 percent of the city's fire fighters were black. Today the figure is about 27.6 percent and an African American - Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer - leads the department's 2,100 uniformed employees.

          "The requirement was suspended two years ago to allow the city to prove it could maintain on its own a department that is at least 26.7 percent African American. Rice's ruling was a recognition that the city had succeeded in its efforts."

(Last known link to Inquirer story:

Dear Readers;

          While we update the Philly FD story with news of their hard-won victory over racial quotas, please peruse our documentation of the long, detailed history of discriminatory racial quotas at the Philadelphia Fire Department below.

          -- Editor Oct. 18, 2014.

Archival / Historical Background:

Racial preferences divide Philly PFD Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Plaintiffs
Joseph L. Rizzo, et al., Defendants

Civil Action 74-258 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Dedication and service regardless of skin color
          The Plaintiffs who filed this discrimination complaint are:  the State of Pennsylvania, a black firefighters' organization called Club Valiants, and five individuals charging the Defendants with "a pattern and practice of racial discrimination in the hiring of uniformed firemen by the Philadelphia Fire Department."
Jump to
Down: Racial Quota Data
          The Defendants are the Philadelphia Fire Department and the City of Philadelphia.  (Joseph L. Rizzo was the named lead Defendant in his official capacity as fire commissioner at the time of the original lawsuit.  Five officials of the City of Philadelphia were also named Defendants.)
Northeast Times story 02-10-05

Philly newspaper article about the Fire Department's racial hiring policies:

White firemen are hot and bothered

GO:  Detailed Rank and Race Charts

(1) Introduction and Overview
Updated Dec. 25, 2003

Philly Fire Administration Building
Philly Fire Admin Building
          The Philadelphia Fire Department has been saddled with a racial quota for hiring blacks for most of the past 30 years. 

          Morale is down among the non-quota hires at the department -- among both blacks and whites.

          Today, 30 some years after the original Court Order, the stigma of forced racial quotas continues to permeate the rank and file of the Philadelphia Fire Department.  The department has been forced to dumb down the tests given to recruit-applicants.  And the once sacred rule of "hiring according to class rank" (according to test scores) has been repeatedly violated.

          The original issues leading to the court ordered quota were:  (1) Too many black applicants flunked the fire department entrance exam, and (2) The fire department didn't look like Philadelphia, i.e., it had fewer uniformed black firefighters than the proportion of blacks in the city.

          Welcome to modern day Civil Rights by Quota.  The late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal opportunity, and who believed that a man should be judged by his character rather than his skin color, must surely be spinning in his grave.

UPDATE 9-17-04:

The Philly Firefighters have formed an organization to fight racial quotas and related unfair hiring practices.  The Concerned American Firefighters Association - Phila. Chapter (CAFFA) web site is at the following link:
(opens a new browser window).

          As an employer, the City of Philadelphia's racial numbers have always looked very good to the Court.  Overall, the City has consistently hired more blacks than their proportion in the civilian population.  But one relatively small segment of the City payroll -- the Fire Department -- just didn't have enough blacks in their ranks, according to the Court.

          The Court has repeatedly invoked the doctrines of disparate impact and proportional representation both when it imposed the racial quota in the 1970's and in subsequent court rulings which have resulted in continuing the racial quota.  You won't find either of these terms in the U.S. Constitution or in the Bill of Rights.

          The Court defined disparate impact as "employment practices that are facially neutral [non-discriminatory on their face] in their treatment of different groups [blacks] but that in fact fall more harshly on one group [blacks] than another [whites] and cannot be justified by business necessity." 

          Under the doctrine of disparate impact no proof of intent, opportunity or motive to commit the violation (statistical discrimination against blacks, i.e., underrepresentation) is required, as would normally be the case under our civil and criminal systems of justice.  The Philadelphia Fire Department is presumed guilty of discrimination until and unless it can prove that it has hired the "right" number of blacks. 

PFD Quotas are Divisive
Racial Quotas Threaten the Dedication and Service of this Department

          Significantly, the Court also noted on the record that there was no evidence that the Philadelphia FD had ever intentionally discriminated against blacks or that the department had any specific policy to discriminate against blacks.  The Court's evidence is purely statistical, and relies solely upon the dubious notion that statistical underrepresentation of a racial or ethnic group constitutes illegal discrimination.


Remedies ...

          Several "remedies" to Philadelphia's alleged unintentional discrimination against blacks have been implemented:

  • A racial quota was imposed directly by the Court, and has been in effect for almost 30 years.  (The Court was even politically incorrect enough to actually refer to it as a "quota".)
  • The City of Philadelphia itself has imposed changes to the entrance exam to make it easier for black applicants to achieve a passing score.
  • Aggressive recruitment policies have been implemented by the department, including special recruiting teams which go to predominantly minority high schools to encourage minority students to become Philadelphia firefighters.
  • A new oral interview / oral test has been added to the testing process just in case the newly dumbed down written test fails to produce enough blacks with passing scores.
  • Firefighter applicants are no longer picked for employment by their class rank / test performance.  This data is presented in great detail, below.

          The whole process is degrading to applicants regarless of their race.  Black hires are forever under suspicion of being a "quota hire", and resent not being given full credit for their actual abilities.  Whites who are not hired are forever suspicious that they were passed over because they are white.  In many case the latter is true, as the statistics below illustrate.


Racial Quotas at Philadelphia FD ...

          Like many fire departments, Philadelphia used to hire new recruits based on where they placed in their training class relative to the other applicants.

          Applicants with high test scores have a higher class rank. In a class of 500 recruits, for example, the applicant with the highest score would be ranked as #1,  and the applicant with the lowest score would be ranked as #500.

          In the days before racial quotas, this would have meant that if the department needed to hire 70 firefighters they would have selected those applicants ranked # 1 through # 70.  Applicants ranked 71 through 500 would not have been hired.

          But the in the last 7 entering firefighter recruit classes (from 1997 thru Dec. 2003) the Philadelphia fire department has had to reach as low as the 1,161st rank in order to hire enough minority firefighters to meet their court-ordered quota.

Note:   The hiring, class rank, and number of minorities presented in this report have been carefully reconstructed from public records and from interviews with knowledgeable sources within the Philadelphia fire department.  These data do not represent official and/or confidential Philadelphia personnel records.  Nonetheless, Adversity.Net is confident these data portray the actual hiring practices of the Philadelphia Fire Department with a 98% - 99% level of accuracy.  --Editor


Class Rank and Racial Quotas ...
How to read the Philly FD Class Rank Data

Example: 80 recruits from Recruit Class 178 were hired in Dec. 2003.  In the graphic below, the average class rank for white hires vs. minority hires appears at the far right.

Average Class Rank: White vs. Minority
Court-ordered diversity means hiring from way down in the class ranks.
36 of the hires from Class 178 were white and 44 were minorities.

White Hires: The 36 white hires had an overall average class rank of 257.4 (the blue bar in the graphic). 

          The highest ranking white hire was # 140 in the class, and the lowest ranking white hire was # 303 in the class. Detailed
SEE: Detailed Quota Data

Training Class Non-Minority Hires: Avg. Class Rank Minority Hires: Avg. Class Rank
172 26.2 109.8
173 76.7 250.0
174 141.1 472.8
175 21.1 62.2
176 87.9 182.6
177 182.6 392.2
178 257.4 710.9

Minority Hires: By contrast, the 44 minority hires in recruit class 178 had an overall class rank of 710.9 (the brown bar in the graphic above).

         While the highest ranking minority hire was # 40 in the class, the remaining 43 minority hires were ranked between # 327 and # 935 in this class!  No whites below the rank of 327 were hired.

          Thus, if you were a white member of recruit class 178, and your class rank was between # 327 and #935, you were refused a job because of the racial quota!   But 43 blacks and Hispanics were hired with class ranks between #327 and #935! Detailed
SEE: Detailed Quota Data

          The same double-standard was applied consistently from 1997 through 2003:  white recruits had to have a much higher score than minorities in order to be hired.   

LEGAL NOTE:  The court's reasoning in this matter is revealed clearly in Judge Becthle's Opinion and Order on 7/26/74.  In this Order the Judge rejected the firefighters' argument that jumping over class members who performed better in order to meet a racial quota was unfair:  

Judge Becthle:  "Now, I want to comment about [the department's] argument yesterday that it would be unfair to readjust, if you will, the rank of members on the eligibility list by providing for some kind of a quota system. 

          "[The department's] argument was that every person on that list who has a passing grade on that list and appears on that list according to passing grade would be denied his rights if he were passed over by one with a lower grade. 

          "Well, the court's comment on that is simply this:  No person has a vested interest in an unlawful hiring list [meaning a list of class rankings that has a "disparate impact" upon blacks], and if a person appears on a list that has been prepared in violation of the law [i.e., prepared according to performance on a test on which blacks do more poorly on than whites], his right to remain on that list in a certain rank must give way to the lawful requirements to avoid discriminatory hiring.  ["Lawful requirements" here refer directly to the "disparate impact" doctrine, NOT to intentional discrimination.]" Opinion by Judge Bechtle 7/26/74, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action 74-258, in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al., Plaintiffs v. Joseph L. Rizzo et al., Defendants.

          In addition to violating the department's rule of hiring according to class rank, the Philadelphia FD has consistently exceeded the court-imposed racial quota by significant margins.
Class: Black Quota (at 12% of new hires): Actual Blacks Hired:
172 8.4 30
173 4.9 22
174 5.5 13
175 4.9 14
176 8.8 13
177 10.3 27
178 9.6 36
Black Hires Exceeded Quotas for Past Seven Years
Number of quota hires exceeds court-imposed quota from each of the past 7 recruit classes.

Black quotas exceeded by as much as 349%
Philly FD exceeded hiring quota for blacks by 48% to 349% in each of the last 7 recruit classes.
          The Philadelphia Fire Department has exceeded its black hiring quota by as much as 348% in each of the last 7 classes of recruits.
Class: Black Quota Exceeded by:
172 257%
173 349%
174 136%
175 186%
176 48%
177 161%
178 275%
          For additional details about how race is more important than test scores and class rank, be sure to also see Rank and Race: Discrimination Details. Detailed
SEE: Detailed Quota Data


Philly FD Quota Stigma ...

          Philly FD's racial quotas demoralize the white firefighters.  But the quotas also demoralize the black firefighters.

          On the one hand, white firefighters are understandably demoralized by knowing that some individuals with poorer test scores were hired ahead of them just because of their skin color.

          On the other hand qualified, hardworking black firefighters who did well on the entrance exam resent being portrayed as a "quota hires" when they may have been hired for their actual ability to do the job.

Philly FD quotas stigmatize ALL firefighters!
Quotas and racial preferences stigmatize ALL Philly firefighters

          Morale in the department has been further eroded by an aggressively pro-quota black Fire Commissioner, Harld B. Hairston with the full support and backing of a pro-quota black City Mayor, John F. Street.


Dumbed Down Entrance Exam ...

          The City of Philadelphia has decided that since blacks were failing the entrance exam at such a high rate, "business necessity" (necessary job skills) no longer required certain test questions, as follows:

  • Reading comprehension skill questions have been eliminated from the entrance exam. The ability of firefighters to read and comprehend Material Safety Data Sheets, hazmat placards, and Emergency Response Guides has become less important to the Philadelphia FD than hiring the correct number of black firefighters.   Note also: All Phila. FD hires are supposedly certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's).  What about the ability of these EMT's to read, comprehend, understand and apply emergency medical protocols?
  • The fire department has also eliminated math skills questions from its entrance exam.  Before the court-ordered racial quotas, a Phila. firefighter needed basic math skills in order to determine if a pumper, hydrant or standpipe would be able to deliver enough water to a fire by computing friction, pumping force and height.  After the court-ordered racial quotas this ability has apparently taken a back seat to hiring the right number of black firefighters.
Sidebar:  Adversity.Net understands that prison guards in Philadelphia are tested on basic reading comprehension skills and math skills while the Phila. firefighters are not!  Does that mean Philadelphia prison guards have to be smarter than Phila. firefighters?  Also, why do Philadelphia prisons apparently have no trouble attracting qualified black applicants even though they must pass math skills and reading comprehension tests?


Oral Interview Panel ...

          In a further effort to increase the number of blacks who are hired, a black Phila. fire chief or officer usually sits on the two person interview panel.


          During this interview the Phila. FD candidates are asked questions pertaining to their past employment, criminal histories and driver license status.

          Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department have expressed a general suspicion that minorities are given more slack or leeway during this interview to help the department meet the court imposed racial quota.


Legal Representation Needed ...

          The Court has repeatedly denied the firefighters the right to intervene in this matter.  Additionally, the City of Philadelphia is obviously not doing a good job of representing the firefighters' interests before the Court. 

Down:  Site Index

          The City's position is simply to comply with the Court Order, implement the quotas, and the hell with the firefighters' right to equal opportunity regardless of skin color.

          If you are a lawyer qualified in these matters, or if you represent a public interest law firm, and you have an interest in representing the firefighters in this matter, please email and we will forward your expression of interest to the appropriate parties within the Philadelphia Fire Department.   In order to avoid the appearance of solicitation, it will be incumbent upon the Philadelphia firefighters to initiate return contact with any interested attorneys and law firms.

END Case 34: (A) Philly FD Intro


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The Philadelphia Chapter of the Concerned American Firefighters Association (CAFFA) is fighting racial quotas.
Visit their web site at (opens new window)

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.