Buffalo Fire Facing Discrimination Suit Over Fire Academy

The Buffalo Fire Department is reportedly facing a new discrimination lawsuit brought by three former recruits. According to WIVB, the suit was brought by a Black man, a Hispanic man and a “Polish” man in his 40s alleging race, ethnicity and age discrimination.

A copy of the complaint is not available, but the suit reportedly claims that recruits were subjected to racial slurs and discriminatory treatment. Named as defendants are the city, Mayor Byron Brown, Fire Commissioner William Renaldo, and Battalion Chief Robert Bourgeois, who oversees the Fire Academy. WIVB quoted former Buffalo Fire Deputy Commissioner Shannon Street, who filed an affidavit in support of the suit, as follows:

  • Throughout my career, I have observed systemic racism and politicization at the BFD Academy, which is charged with the training of new cadets.
  • I have observed great preference being shown to people with family ties to the BFD, and worthy candidates drummed out of the Academy who were minorities and women and who were not politically connected.
  • I brought several particularly egregious specific instances of racial and gender prejudice and political favoritism to His Honor’s attention.
  • I was demoted from Deputy Commissioner and returned to my civil service rank of Captain, where I finished out my career and promptly retired.

UPDATE: September 11, 2023. Here is a copy of the complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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