New Haven Releases Internal Discipline Analysis To Skeptical Firefighters

The City of New Haven, Connecticut has completed an internal review of its fire department discipline process and concluded that complaints from minority firefighters that they are disciplined more frequently and more harshly are not borne out by the facts. However, both union officials and minority firefighters have been quick to criticize the report.

The report was completed internally and issued by the Office of the Corporate Counsel. It comes nearly five months after allegations surfaced last June by the New Haven Firebirds that Assistant Chief Patrick Egan, who oversees the disciplinary process, had been harsher on African American and Latino firefighters than whites.

The report found no statistical disparities either in the frequency of discipline or the severity of punishments handout out. It applied the EEOC’s 80% rule to the data, concluding that the frequency of discipline for whites, blacks and Latinos are well  within the tolerances permitted by federal law. 

Union President James Kottage was quoted as saying “This isn’t an investigation… This is an analysis of numbers.” Kottage also expressed a concern with the methodology of the report.

Firebirds representative Darrell Brooks was quoted as saying “My immediate response is I’m not surprised…. with all due respect to (the city attorney), I don’t expect him to say ‘yeah we got a problem.’”

Kottage and Brooks agree on one thing: they would have preferred an independent investigation.

Here is a copy of the report. Review-of-Race-and-Discipline-in-the-New-Haven-Department-of-Fire-Services

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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