San Francisco Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor is a commanding figure at more than 6 feet tall, with a firefighter's all-muscle build. But he speaks in soft, measured words, even when making explosive allegations against his employer.

Taylor claims that last summer, a senior SFFD officer helped white colleagues cheat on an advancement exam. By the fall, when the exams had been completed, the city's two black assistant fire chiefs scored somewhat poorly and retired rather than face demotion. Lower-ranking firefighters, meanwhile, placed at the top of a list of officers eligible to be promoted. "And they're all white males," Taylor says.

For Taylor, this was an unfair purge. The accusation is ironic, given that Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White was recruited in the wake of a 1987 court decree demanding an end to sexism and racism in the department (she declined to comment for this column). And there's evidence she supports diversity: In July, she appointed African-American firefighter Monica Fields as deputy chief.

But the city will now take Taylor's allegations seriously. In a special meeting, civil service commissioners will soon review documents from a Department of Human Resources investigation into the cheating allegations that concluded Taylor's claims were unfounded.

Despite these efforts, I think the inquiry could be more effective — either in exonerating accused cheaters, or confirming Taylor's claims — if it weren't hampered by a conflict of interest where the person in charge of creating and administering the test was also assigned to determine whether cheating nullified its results.

Promotions resulting from this test may involve pay hikes worth millions of dollars over the years, and cheating allegations warrant an independent inquiry.


Complaints of discrimination are so commonplace in local government that managers typically brace themselves for allegations, lawsuits, and appeals any time they make a significant staffing decision. But legitimate claims can emerge through this background noise. And the city's racist history has been partially overcome, thanks to verified discrimination claims.

In 1984, the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association filed a lawsuit describing the fire department as a white men's club. In 1987, a judge approved an integration plan. Court supervision was lifted only after then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed as chief one of the plaintiffs in the 1984 suit.

Slow as they may have been, these court-ordered improvements inspired Taylor. Twenty-three years ago, after spending a decade as a deputy sheriff, he applied to the fire department and found a calling.

" I went to a fire in Hunters Point in 1997 where six people lost their lives," he recalls. "Five of the six were children, up in the housing projects. A couch caught fire, trapping victims upstairs. One of them was burnt to ashes; cremated, more or less. It's something I think about fairly often."

Bolstered with a master's in public sector leadership from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Taylor moved up through the ranks, reaching the position of battalion chief, where he's been for 13 years. Ordinarily, officers advance from battalion chief to assistant chief by taking civil service exams. But until last summer, no such tests had been administered for the assistant chief level since the 1987 court decree. Instead, appointments to assistant chief — one of half a dozen officers citywide in charge when attending major fires — were handled on what was called a provisional basis, even though such appointments often lasted years. Taylor said he was among several officers who served such temporary stints.

By 2010, the last "permanent" assistant chief left from the 1980s was an officer named Art Kenney. Thanks to civil service rules, his title made him the only person qualified to advise the city on how to create a specialized advancement exam for assistant chiefs.

In mid-June, Taylor says he overheard Kenney ask a superior officer, Deputy Chief Patrick Gardener, how one would place a fire truck near a fire. "I said, 'He's tutoring people,'" Taylor recalls. "I said it with such force that Gardener turned and said, 'I don't want to discuss the exam anymore."

By Taylor's reckoning, Kenney was asking Gardener for information to unfairly pass along to lower-ranking white officers. The Department of Human Resources ultimately determined that Kenney and Gardener were merely discussing firefighting tactics, not exam cheating. That interpretation infuriates Taylor. "I'm trained on how to conduct investigations," he says. "I know what I witnessed."

Chris Stevenson, who recently retired as a provisional assistant chief, told me he once overheard Gardener acknowledge that Kenney had inappropriately discussed the exam, but Kenney insists the allegation is bogus. "It's definitely a false accusation. There's absolutely nothing to it," he says. "He [Taylor] must be saying it so often that he's starting to believe it himself. We've been friends for a number of years, and I don't know why any of this has happened. I hope they can reinvestigate it, and that I will again be cleared."


In August, a week before the test was to be administered, Taylor complained to city human resources director Micki Callahan about Kenney's supposed comments. In November, Taylor met with John Kraus, who oversees city employment testing. On Jan. 28, Kraus wrote to the Civil Service Commission and said none of the allegations could be substantiated.

Taylor has appealed this conclusion and demanded a new investigation. This week, a detailed chronicle of Kraus's fact-finding will be delivered to commission members, who must judge which version of events is true.

There's no reason to believe Kraus didn't do his best to assess Taylor's claims. But he's a test-making bureaucrat whose job success is measured in reliable exam results — not cheating-linked debacles.

Many of us may have cheated on a test at one point or another. But not with these stakes. High-ranking San Francisco firefighters are paid extraordinarily well. And the higher the rank, the greater the take. Taylor's base pay last year was $161,895, which became $202,397 with overtime and other pay. Kenney, the city's only official permanent assistant chief, earned $187,146 in base pay plus overtime and other pay for a total of $267,777.

It's during retirement when these differences really pay off. City firefighters earn 90 percent of their annual pay upon retirement, which for many officers begins in their mid-50s. In two or more decades, a single officer's exam-facilitated pay bump can be worth half a million dollars. The test in question may affect half a dozen such positions.

Cheating allegations involving multimillion-dollar payoffs fall under the category of potential white-collar fraud, and warrant an outside investigator with enough resources, authority, and leeway to find the truth.

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30 comments
inthegreenkma526
inthegreenkma526

Dang,,, guess the white guys didn't know I was white..passed some tests, white guys didn't give me the answers either , didn't get appointed although I did pass a test higher than an asian who wound up as a deputy chief.. guess being white counted for something then..Oh well.. ..Still, all in all, I actually only met two 100% bad guys...and only one or two who would not put the public first in an emergency.. Go figure!! Retired and happy to be so..although I would have liked to have had the big bucks that the papers talk about...Art, when the new big dogs start barking up you ars.../ Still don't think it is your first rodeo.....

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

In response to "bobcat":

"Bobcat's" claim that The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) "has always fought and worked hard to keep it white," is utter nonsense coming, obviously, out of the mouth of a whining black ethnic bean counter.

The SFFD to started its first race-based hiring program in 1970, just six years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was supposed to have ruled out race as a job qualification. Historically, the city had banned only women from the department, and there had been Hispanics in the SFFD since the early 1900s.

Blacks and Asians began to join in the mid-1950s, but their numbers did not satisfy the ethnic bean counters. Then, as now, the charge was that an “old boy network” explained the predominance of Irish, Italians, and Germans in the department.

In an attempt to remedy imagined wrongs, The City established something called the Fire Safety Technician (FST) program. The U.S. Department of Labor took a close interest in it because if it proved successful, it could be a model for departments all over the country. The program was to be restricted to non-whites and — this was crucial — they were exempted from taking the standard civil service examination.

The 1965 Fire Department entrance exam had been given since about 1950, and was nearly identical in scope and difficulty to the test an applicant needed to pass to get into San Francisco State College. The problem for non-whites had never been an “old boy network;” Asians rarely took the Fire Department test and the blacks who took it usually failed.

The first group of 99 potential FSTs was cut down to 23 through literacy and background checks. That left 17 blacks, one Samoan, one Arab, two Hispanics, and two Asians. FSTs were supposed to have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but this was conveniently overlooked. One candidate’s father was a medical doctor, another was a high-placed civil servant, and at least two had parents who were wealthy property-owners. Some of these “disadvantaged” men had graduated from U.C. Berkeley and the University of San Francisco.

The idea was that FSTs would go through special training that would bring them up to the level of men who had passed the civil service examination, and they would then be put in the field as full-fledged firefighters. After a year, they would take a follow-up examination to see if they should be kept in the department. That exam was NEVER given.

How did the first class of FSTs do?

--Within three years, the Samoan had gone back to Samoa, leaving an unpaid balance on a loan of more than $10,000 from the Firefighter Credit Union.

--When the Arab failed to understand a telephone message about a possible heart attack, he was sent to a community college to improve his English. This so upset him that he sued the department and the city and got a stress disability pension.

--One of the Hispanics had simply walked away from the job, and the other had died on duty — from an overdose of heroin.

--Six of the blacks were fired or suspended for alcohol or drugs usage on duty.

Those who were still on the job were not doing very well either. The first promotions to which an entry-level firefighter can aspire are lieutenant, Arson Inspector, or Fire Prevention Inspector (which involves inspecting buildings for possible fire hazards). By the early 1980s, it was clear that none of the FSTs was preparing for the difficult examinations that must be passed to get these jobs, but an unexpected solution to their stagnating careers presented itself. The Bureau of Fire Prevention had suffered a rash of retirements, transfers, and promotions, and suddenly needed more inspectors.

Until then, the only way to become an inspector had been to get one of the top scores on the Bureau of Fire Prevention exam. Firefighters spend months and even years studying regulations and building codes in order to do well on the exam, and for good reason. Inspectors are paid 20 percent more than ordinary firefighters, do not have to work at night, and do not have to risk their lives fighting fires.

This time, inspectors would be chosen differently. The examination was waived, and selection would be based on seniority of those who volunteered for the job. It sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime chance for an easy promotion, and it was — but not for whites. Every one of the ten new no-exam inspectors was non-white: six blacks and an Asian from the FST program, and three other blacks with less seniority. When white volunteers with more seniority than those chosen asked what happened to their applications, the Chief of Fire Prevention told them they were “the wrong color.”

Fire Prevention Inspectors spend most of their time out of the office, presumably inspecting buildings. By 1987, it became common knowledge in the department that the Asian was working in his mother’s real estate office when he was supposed to be on duty, and that some of the blacks had rented a house, where they went to avoid work. The Asian and at least one of the blacks may never have visited any of the 600 buildings assigned to them that year and were filing false inspection reports. One claimed to have inspected 200 buildings in a single day, whereas a typical daily total for a conscientious inspector is fifteen.

By late 1987 the scandal was too widely-known to ignore and the department reluctantly conducted an internal investigation. Political correctness triumphed: No action was taken against the Asian and the black; instead, their white supervisor was reprimanded for not managing them properly.

Early in 1988, the same two inspectors, still under a cloud despite their official exoneration, claimed to have found a swastika in their office. Racial pressure groups and the liberal media made an enormous stink out of this incident, which “proved” there was racism in the department. The two inspectors filed suit for three million dollars in “stress” damages. Curiously, two other inspectors who shared the same office (one of whom was Jewish) told everyone that the incident had been staged, but no one was listening.

The FBI was called in, with much fanfare, and eventually exposed the hoax. The media suddenly went quiet, and the inspectors dropped their $3-million suit. Two months later, the black was promoted to lieutenant. The Asian went on unpaid sick leave for over 4 years, and returned just in time to take promotional exam for the rank of Lieutenant. Such have been the results of the department’s first try at race-based hiring.

Geo. Alboff
Geo. Alboff

This is a most accurate synopsis of SFFD history over the last 4 or so decades.

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

Let me get this straight. By Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor's "reckoning", Assistant Chief Art Kenney was asking Chief of the Fire Department 2, "for information to unfairly pass along to lower-ranking white officers", only white officers, according to race-card player, Kevin Taylor.

So far, so good. But here's the rub.

Pat Gardner was already Chief of Department 2, and as the Deputy Chief of Operations, he was already higher ranked than an Assistant Chief, and is therefore ineligible to take the test.

And, as the only sitting civil service Assistant Chief, Art Kenney is required to advise both the administration and test developers on the test, and was also ineligible to take the test since he already held the rank.

Gardner and Kenney discussed the test because it was their job to do so. Neither of them could profit from "cheating" because both were at that rank or higher already.

On some level Taylor knows this, but that doesn't stop him from playing the race card once again in order to paint successful white as racists even though every firefighter and fire department office have equal access to all study material. Who's fault is it then, when black test-takers cannot pass Fire Deparment promotional exams in the same percentages as Asian, Hispanic and white do?

bobcat
bobcat

"and the beat goes on." as a retired sffd firefighter (captain), this department has always fought and worked hard to "keep it white." the chief of dept., joanne hayes-white is doing her job and has done it quite well in elminating african americans from the department and upper ranks. this dept. has reverted back to pre-consent decree days. when you look at the overall numbers, the make up of all the ranks the numbers will reflect a lack of diversity. ok so joanne hayes-white appointed one black lesbian female monica fields to deputy chief. this was not earth shattering considering the overall make up of the department. bottom line is simply this. as long as you have whites in an already racist dept and they are in control, it will remain defiled and corrupted to the core. white males stick together through thick and thin. they will continue to lie, cheat and do whatever is necessary to move their white agenda. i know all of the candidates who took the assistant chiefs exam. when you look back over the history of those individuals who have taken previous promotional exams, people like kevin taylor has always done exceptionally well. it was shocking to see the final results of the exam and to see where kevin placed. this young man is an achiever and understands the test taking process. i strongly believe that as long as the city's fire department exam unit administers exams and you have a racist chief of department who has totally disregarded diversity, you are going to have these problems. i remember a time when department exams were administered by outside testing contractors and you did not have security breaches because the outside contractor had no agenda and security was unquestioned. the key committee (those people who set the answer key to the exam) met and set the key simoultaneously to test being administered. no chance of contamination (at least it appeared that way) but white males somehow some way find ways to violate the rules of the game. i had 291/2 years of dealing with these corrupted guys and their corrupted system of things. we are all aware of the agenda of their international and their local union, keep it white. unfortunately the truth has to be told and i would challenge anyone of them at any time including assistant chief art kenny who has been a ring leader for many years. my position is simple...throw out the test, start from square one without using art kenny as the subject matter expert and use an outside testing contractor.

Nick
Nick

this internal personnel matter is a 'news' item because of another angry black man complaining about the white folks ... again - ps you're a failure because you're a failure and blaming someone else simply because of the color of their skin is just a sheet and a shade away from the kkk

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

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guest
guest

Appearance of impropriety? What me worry? I'm a Gardener...no big whoop

LA
LA

This fuckin department is becoming muni with all this nigga whining and crying.

Djfiresf
Djfiresf

There is a closed [secret} testing system for all ranks. There are no answers to a test untill the test is given. Afterwards the Testing Key Committee run by officers who are already at least one rank above the rank being tested meet to basicly also take the test openly amongst themselves. Many a disagreement has come out of these meetings but they usually manage a compromise as to what is standard, then give point rankings to the answers. Then the city has officers from other citys to come in and listen to the test takers audio answers and using the key committees rating system ranks the test takers at least this is how it is supposed to be done. Many years ago a Firefighter could review questions and answers after the eligible list was decided. Now the Human Resources Division working in secret with the Chief of the Dept. and with the assistance of the city attorneys office comes out with an eligible list which can not be checked for mistakes, errors and most especially nepotisim and special interests. Open goverment in San Francisco is all smoke and mirrors. Civil Service, The merit system, oversight accountability and the basic checks and balances of our Constitutional goverment. Remenber : Legislative, executive and judicial branchs we all learned in grade school. These all need to be reinstituded in the City & County of San Francisco. My familys has over a century working for the people of San Francisco. My pride and pleasure to do so. Its to bad that Dept. heads ,city attorneys and the polititians seem to quickly forget that they work for the same people that I do. Its to often these days that Dept. Heads make the rules as they go along for personal preferences and then the City does its best to "cover their asses" for as long as they can untill the responsible person retires or so often gets a better paying position elsewhere because its harded to hit a moving target.

LA
LA

Typical nigga always complaining about something how bout take some responsibility yourself and admit your a dumbass and theres other people that can do the job better than you. Kevin Taylor Kevin Smith all the same two crybabies in the department. Your already making money you don't deserve. Boo hoo hoo cry me a river you fuckin bitch.

Roberrt Charles
Roberrt Charles

Let me get this straight. By Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor's "reckoning", Assistant Chief Art Kenney was asking Chief of the Fire Department 2, Pat Gardner, "for information to unfairly pass along to lower-ranking white officers", only white officers, according to race-card player, Kevin Taylor. How Taylor can assume this, only he knows.

So far, so good. But here's the rub.

Pat Gardner is already Chief of Department 2, and as the Deputy Chief of Operations, he is already higher ranked than an Assistant Chief, and is therefore ineligible to take the test.

And, as the only sitting civil service Assistant Chief, Art Kenney is required to advise both the administration and test developers on the test, and is also ineligible to take the test since he already holds the rank.

Gardner and Kenney discussed the test because it was their job. They are required to do so. Neither of them could profit from "cheating" because both were at that rank or higher already.

On some level Taylor knows this, but that doesn't stop him from playing the race card once again in order to paint successful whites as racists even though every firefighter and fire department officer has equal access to all study material. Who's fault is it then, when black test-takers cannot pass Fire Department promotional exams in the same percentages as Asian, Hispanic and white do?

RJJ
RJJ

I believe that if the SFFD BFA would like to see more applicants of color enter into the Fire Service and also promote to higher ranks, I would like to recommend that they use their influence and resources to recruit the best and brightest young African American Males and Females in the community at a young age and mentor them into a career into the Fire Service. They should insure that these young women and men remain physicaly active and train to meet the physical demands and standards of a Firefighter, encourage them to remain in school and get good grades, and finally enter a community college "Fire Technology" training program and provide scolarships to help those who could not afford the community college experience and education. They should help them develop the moral and ethical atributes of being a public servant and recognize that hard work and dedication and devotion to the very high standards for the right and priveledge to call oneself a Firefighter should be a component of ones character. This is called investing in your communities future and helping to develop future leaders who are capable of leading by example and earning the respect of all people in the community. This is done in many communities and is called a "Firefighters Explorers Program" (See Richmond Fire Department). It is sad that the SFFD BFA instead, often utilizes its resources and influence in what I believe are destructive and devisive ways to seek promotion and employment the easy way, falsely acuse, make unwarranted demands, sue innocent individuals and or destroy or tarnish honorable individuals carrers and reputations, with a sense of entitlement regardless of qualifications and or performance abilities and actual cognitive knowledge and skills sets and experience to actually meet the demands of the positions to be held. Though this is not true for all African American Firefighters in the SFFD, many are excellent Firefighters and Leaders who deserve their positions, however the previous is unfortunately the truth for many other individuals in the department. Its time that we move beyond the rhetoric of color and gender and focus on performance, education, specialized training, experience and community service as the hallmark for those who have trully made a commitment for service to the community, with a high standard and desire to strive to be the best one can be all of the time and to not just get by and or live by a desire and/or a demand for entitlement based on past discriminations to others in history.

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

Dear RJJ

Amen. There is nothing I can add to your comments above. Your logic and suggestions are precisely the way to go.Best,Robt. Charles

S. Tillman
S. Tillman

I think the article and the comments are really sad. In a time when cities are trying to cut our pensions and staffing, you yahoos are still fighting amongst yourselves and bringing up racial divides.

FF Tillman Truck 10

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

Dear S. Tillman:

Yes, people are still fighting and bringing up racial divides. But we must understand that the racial divides under discussion came about when biased courts, ignored the promise of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was written to put an end to racial divides. We are stuck with them as they have been forced into the hiring and promotional processes of nearly every fire and police department in nearly every major city in America.

We would as a society be better off if we jettisoned race from our consideration of how public goods such as civil sevice jobs and college admissions are distributed. Getting rid of race, like getting rid of racism, is far from easy, but that doesn't mean we can't take the preliminary steps, one of which is de-institutionalizing racial catagories.

If no benefits were given or denied on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, sex, or national origin, the "one drop rule" and offical "racial and gender classification systems" would be relegated to the dustbin of history where they belong.

Rmorehen
Rmorehen

No one in the SFFD has more credibility than Asst. Chief Art Kenny. He has give almost 53 years of service to the citizens of San Francisco as both a Policeman and Fireman.God bless him.As far Kevin Taylor is concerned, pick your marbles and go home.Lt. R. Morehen, ret.

K. Walsh
K. Walsh

I am very disappointed in BC Taylor making those accusations against AC Kenny. I have known and worked with AC Kenny for over 30 years and cannot believe that he would be involved in such action. Mr. Taylor has risen quickly through the ranks because of "affirative action" hiring and promotions (quotas, banding, rule of the list, etc.). This manner of hiring and promotion is being done across the country. Because of politics and judicial rulings "equal access" has become to mean "equal results". When those minorities don't do well someone or something must have been done to deny them favorable results. I seem to remember an accusation was made against Black F.F. member AC Stevenson when he was on the H20 Lt. exam commitee and his son was taking the test. Lt. Kevin Walsh, Retired

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

After a 30-year career in the San Francisco Fire Department, I can look back and pinpoint when the effiency, morale, and pride that had existed for nearly a century in the SFFD, all began to erode. The downward spiral began not long after simple-minded liberal "judges" forced San Francisco to virtually eliminate excellence in entrance and promotional tests in order to pave the way for what they called, "underrepresented minorities." This illegal, race-and gender-based preference nonsense was given the noble-sounding title of "affirmative action."

Why, I wondered, did I have to take orders from a quota-hire black lieutenant who went to a parking lot, looking for a “Cadillac” when he should have been looking for a “cardiac”? The computer printout in his hand didn't say "Cadillac."

And what kind of grade did a quota-hire black get on his entrance examination when he wrote on an injury report, “He jump out the window and have sprangs in his angle”? And what was the IQ of another quota-hire black who wrote on an incident report, “The deceased greeted us at the door”? And what of the affirmative-action black who said he could interpret to a Hispanic woman what a fire had done to her kitchen, and told her “El stovo broko”?

I well remember a fire in August 1993, at which a woman quota-hire driver/pump operator was relieved of her duties on the spot because she couldn’t do the basic job: supply water to the building’s stand-pipe system and get water to her crew, who had taken their hose line directly to the seat of the fire.

Another failure of affirmative action occurred at the same fire, but with more tragic results. An inexperienced black lieutenant quota-hire lost his life because he didn’t recognize the signs of an impending back-draft (explosion). Eight other firefighters had thrown themselves to the floor to avoid the heat that was sure to come (later estimated at 2000 degrees), but the medical examiner’s report said the man had been standing, and had not properly used [M]any of his protective clothing. Shouts from the firefighter bashing in the door to “hit the floor,” along with the eerie calm that precedes a back-draft were wasted on this unfortunate man, who was hired and promoted beyond his abilities. Affirmative-action literally killed him.

There was a bitter epilogue to this incident. As they always do, hundreds of firefighters from the entire region attended the funeral to pay respects to a fallen comrade. The crowd spilled into the aisles and rear of the church. The former president of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association — who was hired and given four promotions because he is black — took the opportunity to lecture the congregation about racism. It is a miracle no one walked out.

As for hiring under-muscled and under-sized women for a job they are ill-suited, one must come to grips with the fact that many of the quota-hire women in the SFFD are simply too weak to raise even the 24-foot ladder, one of the lightest in use. A local Spanish television station decided to film the city’s first Latina firefighter during her mandatory daily drills with the 24 foot ladder. They politely excused themselves and left after she repeatedly dropped the ladder on her own head.

Later, when her officer gently suggested that she start a weight training program, she accused him of sexism and made two phone calls, one to her attorney, the other to the EEOC. Of course, women like her are in the department only because physical standards are so watered down they are virtually meaningless. When I talk to women about the pre-female test I had to pass nearly 30 years ago, their eyes bulge; not one that I have spoken to thinks she could have passed. The new non-standards apply to men, too, so we have weaklings of both sexes.

Djfiresf
Djfiresf

C'mon people stop the blame game, work to address solutions. There are rules, laws and common sence. The Chief who issued these statements is entitiled to his opinion, of course. But to accuse a fellow officer [Senior Officer] who in every respect has devoted more than 50 years of service and whose example by conduct and deed is beyond reproach except by his superiors after a fair and proper impartial investigation into a believed improprity has been conducted only shows that this complaintant engages his lips before his brains. And has obviously lapses in memory when it comes to the Rules and Regulations of the Dept. regarding representing oneself as other than an individual in media relations. Following proper procedures in filing a formal complaint,[ I wonder if the inclusion of the madatory perjury statement had a deciding factor in taking this to the media or the repercusions via bering false witness against a fellow Dept. Member.] He also seems to have memory lapse as to the Chief Officer who recieved a minor suspension for improprities while serving on the ANSWER KEY COMMITTEE as is public record. Anytime one seeks to better the position of a few no matter the critertia is only hurting the whole. Answer: Open goverment with checks and balances so no matter which species is in charge of the farm, all are held accountable to the duties and responsibilities of the position to which they hold

Spgandcrew
Spgandcrew

My God man do you realize how dumb you sound, definitely there are unqualified officers in the department who benefited greatly from affirmative action but to lump every minority officer as a quota-hire incompetent makes the department sound like neanderthals. What you do here, what you say here, what you see here, let it stay here and be remedied here. Remember that mantra LIVE IT

Robert Charles
Robert Charles

Dear Spgandcrew: I was not intending to "lump EVERY minority officer as a quota-hire incompetent." I was pointing to the system that opened the doors to incompetence, a door that should NEVER have been opened.

Ask yourself a question. Why does the fireman slide down the pole? To get from the dormitory to his truck as quickly as possible. This is child’s-play, even fun for most of the class of 36 who went through 15 weeks of training for the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) beginning in July, 1997. But one member of the class opted out of the century-old brass-pole slide. Why? She is afraid.

This is part of the legacy of federal judge Marilyn Patel of the California Northern District Court, a Jimmy Carter appointee and former lawyer for the ACLU. Well known for her social-engineering decisions, she has halted the firefighting careers of scores of white men in favor of less-qualified minorities and women.

In 1988 she issued a consent decree, demanding a 40 percent minority and 10 percent female fire department. This, she said, would make up for past discrimination. Indeed, women had not been allowed in the SFFD, but nothing prevented minorities from applying. The first black joined in 1955; the first Asian two years later, and there has been a sprinkling of Hispanics since the turn of the century. Though proof of racial discrimination was supposedly necessary, it was never found; Judge Patel shoved her consent decree down the throat of the SFFD anyway.

In order to hire women, the department had to throw out all the old strength standards and replace them with “tests” that wouldn’t stress the average teen-age boy. One such test requires the applicant to raise a 24-foot wooden ladder to vertical. To make it easier for the new breed of diverse firefighters, the base of the ladder is attached to the ground with a metal hinge. No one seems worried that there are no metal hinges bolted to the sidewalks in front of buildings in San Francisco.

Another test requires the applicant to drag a 80-pound cloth dummy across a polished cement floor and out the door. Needless to say, the average person removed from a burning building weighs a lot more than 80 pounds and may prefer to be carried rather than dragged. If there is any dragging it is usually across a wet carpet.

Physical strength is important not just for getting the job done but for staying alive. Firefighting ranks high among the most dangerous professions in the country, and only the ideologically blinded fail to realize that it takes stringent physical and mental standards to keep death and injury rates down. When reporters asked former New York City Mayor Ed Koch about ethnic diversity in his department, he said he was more interested in whether someone could get a 200-pound mayor out of a burning building.

San Francisco, it appears, was not listening.

I remember when the first Asian woman was hired in the early 1990s — it was front-page news. One local paper called her the Jackie Robinson of the SFFD, who had cracked that old devil, the color line. Her first fire — a smoldering sofa and the wall behind it, which could have been handled with a five-gallon portable pump can — revealed the truth. When she and her crew got back to quarters they sat with coffee and, following custom, critiqued their performance at the fire. While they talked, she sat alone, near tears, asking herself why she had chosen this terrible job, moaning about her frightening experience.

At her next fire, she was part of the first engine company to arrive at a small hotel with the fire confined to one set of rooms. Realizing how shaky our Asian-American heroine actually was, her officer gave her the least dangerous assignment. As they rushed in the front door she was to connect one end of a 100-foot hose to a standpipe water outlet in the hallway while they took the business end directly to the rooms on fire. As they crouched in the doorway waiting for the water, it began to heat up. “Give us the water; where’s the damn water?” they yelled down the hall to the woman.

The water never came. It got so hot the men were driven from the building, barely able to save their hose. They found the woman outside wandering around doing make-work — picking up axes and straightening hose. Naturally they wanted to know why she hadn’t given them water. She said she had been told in training that if it gets too hot, just leave. So she left her crew in the hot spot without even connecting to the water source.

Thankfully, she has been taken from the field and given the position of fire prevention inspector. This much-desired job entails no night work, no danger, brings a 20 percent raise and is awarded only after months of study and successful performance on a competitive examination. Somehow, she never had to take the test.

The undeserved weight of command has taken a toll on other women officers as well. One lady lieutenant and the engine crew she commanded were first to arrive at a house fire in the living room over a garage. Standard SFFD practice required her to take her crew with hoses up the front stairs, kick in the door, and put out the fire. She made a chicken-hearted assessment and changed tactics. After telling her crew to “Get back, it’s too hot,” she ordered them to attempt to break the living room windows with the hose stream, hoping the water would magically find its way to the fire. It didn’t; in fact the windows wouldn’t even break.

The second-arriving lieutenant and his crew knew what to do. They shouldered her aside, took her hose from her, ran up the stairs, kicked in the door and put out the fire. The embarrassed woman officer did the expected and filed a complaint with the department’s EEOC office, claiming that the brutish crew made sexist remarks when they took her hose and put out the fire. Back in quarters, following the fire, the cowardly woman officer, thinking she was alone, was seen in tears, muttering to herself and punching herself in the face. At the next annual SFFD charity chili cook-off, one group of chefs wanted to use her warning, “Get back, it’s too hot!” as their motto but decided against it for fear of another EEOC complaint.

There was another lady lieutenant who was so short she couldn’t push the overhead door to the compartment on the side of the ladder truck containing the portable air packs, up to the open position above her head. The door kept coming down on her helmeted head and she couldn’t take her air pack from its storage rack. When passersby noticed her plight, they began to giggle and make unflattering remarks. This caused the young officer such distress she abandoned her air pack, went around to the other side of the hook and ladder, sat on the running board, and hid. She never joined her crew inside the burning building.

I once had the unique experience of working alongside a woman who could not break a sheetrock wall with her standard 8-pound ax. Her lieutenant became so vexed that he broke the wall with the back of his hand. In my 30-year career in the SFFD I never saw another firefighter unable to break sheetrock with an ax. For decades, the upper age limit for hiring was 33, yet this remarkably unfit woman had been hired at age 44; her previous job was decorating cakes. As an indication of how reliable she is, she was recently nick-named, “Defective Equipment.”

The problem for minorities — blacks especially — has not been the physical but the mental demands of the job. For decades a test comparable to a college entrance exam guaranteed that the SFFD hired and promoted only men with well above-average intelligence. The need to increase the number of minority firefighters, many of whom fail even basic intelligence tests, means that the written exam has been notoriously dumbed down. Now one test question actually asks: “Which is more difficult, pushing a wheelbarrow up a ramp or on the flat?”

Another asked, "When going around a turn, which pickup truck is most likely to lose its load? The one with the load piled high above the bed, or the one with load deep inside the bed""

In the early 1980s race and testing mischief took a tortured turn when, for the first time, San Francisco hired an outside testing company at a cost of $250,000 to design the promotional exam for the rank of lieutenant — the lowest supervisory rank. In the past, the Civil Service Testing Office had made up all promotional examinations for the city, but this was to be a special exercise to eliminate “racial bias” in the lieutenant’s exam.

The testing company interviewed firefighters for weeks to determine the proper questions for the examination. It asked every ethnic firefighter association, the firefighters union, and representatives from City Hall to evaluate the new exam to see if it was race-neutral. Everyone agreed that it was.

The test was given and scored. Approximately one third of the Asian, Hispanic and white test-takers passed, but only 12 percent of the blacks. The Black Firefighters’ Association (BFA), which had previously agreed that the test was race-neutral, now decided it was biased, but only against blacks. A judge agreed, and made the city come up with a promotion plan more equitable to blacks.

The city agreed to pick names at random from the 330 highest-scoring finishers, but only a Fire Department Assistant Chief and the black female attorney representing the BFA would do it — behind closed doors. When the “random selection” was over, only non-whites had moved up the list, and whites had only moved down. One white went from 15th to 75th place. The names of some whites simply disappeared and were replaced with the names of low-scoring non-whites. One of the unjustly promoted benefited from having one Pacific Island great-grand parent.

One black “lieutenant” was returning from a fire drill on the Peninsula with his engine crew when he noticed (possibly for the first time) the Crystal Springs Reservoir just south of San Francisco from which the city gets its water (for fire hydrants, too). He turned to his engine driver and asked if that was the [Pacific] “ocean” or “the [San Francisco] bay.” The lake is about 300 yards across.

Some incidents of intellectual failure have been more frightening. When looking for a way to get from the roof of an adjoining building to a burning hotel, a black quota-hire lieutenant ordered one of his crew to jump across the span separating the structures. They were 4 stories above the ground, the alley between the buildings was at least 15 feet, and everyone had already been evacuated from the burning hotel. The firefighter refused to obey the ridiculous order.

In the spring of 1996 at a wind-whipped house fire, the actions of two quota-hires may have resulted in serious consequences: One firefighter died and another is permanently disabled. The first hook and ladder arrived lacking one of its crew, a black woman. She later admitted she wanted to get a sound sleep, so she went to bed wearing ear-plugs and didn’t hear the alarm. At the same fire, the non-white driver of the first engine company, probably coddled through the training course, could not figure out how to deliver water from his pumper to the seat of the fire. Whether the failures of these two quota hires positively caused the two tragedies is not certain, but they didn’t help.

So what has the department learned, since the consent decree, about how to hire firemen? In November, 1996, 7,000 men and women sat for the watered-down SFFD written entrance examination. Three months later a list of the highest scoring 2,100 was released. In July, 1997, the first group of 36 recruits began the 15-week training course at the Fire Department’s Division of Training.

Not surprisingly, only 12 of the 36 had actually placed among the top 36 on the examination. The remaining 24 were hand-picked from the list of 2,100 — also-rans selected to fill race and sex quotas. Naturally, not one of the anointed 24 is a white man. Fifteen of the training class were women, though only three women placed in the top 36.

Scores for the hand-picked 24 ranged from 45th place (Asian male) to 59th (Asian male) to 95th (white female) to 248th (Asian female) to 631st place (black female). To get their last black woman the ethnic and gender bean counters dropped all the way to 954th place.

This is what the department does in order to strike a racial “balance” In that class of 36 there were five white men and five white women. In the next training class of 42, there were also five white men and five white women. In the third training class of 42 — undergoing training this summer — there are only four white men.

What does this sort of preference mischief mean in real, human terms? One young white man placed in the top 30 out of the pool of 7,000. Two of his close relatives were San Francisco firemen. He is an outstanding athlete, having captained and quarterbacked his high school football team. Though it is not required, he had prepared for the SFFD by earning a two-year degree in Fire Science, and is certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. This man, who had been preparing literally all his life for the job was passed over for a woman who, it turned out, was afraid to slide down the pole.

Fortunately, he was included in the next training class.

When a firefighter-in-training fails any of the physical tests requiring a partner, he or she may select a specific partner for the mandatory re-test. During one afternoon of retesting, no fewer than 13 undermuscled women chose this young athlete to help them get through their tests. Remarkably, even the politically correct instructors told the next batch of weaklings to pick someone else.

Eye-witnesses report that this class averages only two standard pull-ups. When certain members of the class practice lifting and raising the 6-man, 425 pound, 50-foot wooden extension ladder, the instructors must remove the fly (the extendible portion) so that feeble trainees can lift the fire department’s most versatile ladder. This eliminates nearly one-third of its weight but virtually negates its usefulness.

Obviously, the SFFD has learned nothing from the manifest foolishness of its hiring policy. It is run by people who think like Gloria Steinem who, during a television interview, said she didn’t care if women were not strong enough to carry people over their shoulders out of burning buildings. Presumably she would be happy to be dragged down stairs by her ankles, banging her head on each step, so long as she is dragged by a woman.

The consciousness of race and sex that now pervades the department has proven to be a remarkable temptation for minority and women firefighters looking for financial rewards via the courts. A copy of Playboy on a dormitory table becomes sexual harassment. A reference to eating watermelon becomes racial discrimination, as does demanding that a minority fire inspector show up on time at the office. If you ask real questions when a “facilitator” is conducting a diversity workshop, that’s racial intimidation.

There have been hundreds of complaints filed with the department’s EEOC office in the last decade. Each incident must be investigated according to EEOC guidelines, each investigation takes weeks, and each costs the SFFD nearly $20,000. Most months there are a dozen or more on-going investigations. These terrible costs have so compromised the firefighting budget that the department no longer has enough money for uniforms and safety shoes.

Some investigations have paid off handsomely for those who can find “racism” around every corner. In the late 1980s, when the four blacks in a training class of 30 were repeatedly making perfect scores on the weekly written exams yet failing their field trials, an investigation revealed that a black instructor had been giving them the test questions ahead of time. When this stopped, test scores for the blacks nose-dived. Neither the instructor nor the four cheaters were reprimanded. But the last laugh was theirs. A couple of years after graduating from the Division of Training the four filed an EEOC complaint, claiming that they had been unfairly stigmatized as “cheaters.” A court ruled in their favor and the City of San Francisco was forced to give each of them $35,000.

One of the most firmly-held convictions of the race quota-mongers is that occupations must precisely reflect the percentage of each ethnic minority in the community. Yet, while San Francisco has only an eight percent black population, the officer ranks in the SFFD are 34 percent black. Overall, the black SFFD membership has achieved 132 percent of the original consent decree goal while the Asian firefighter goal lags at only 58 percent. Early this year the Asian American Firefighters Association hired a lawyer to present this fact before the Fire Commission, but black favoritism in hiring continues unabated.

There is no more glaring example of the pro-black, anti-Asian bias than the November 1997 hiring of the son of a black Assistant Chief (a high rank he achieved through preferential promotions). Fifty-two Asian applicants (and quite a few others) got higher test scores than the black, but he was hired and they were not. Midway through the 15-week training course he hurt himself and could not do field drills and exercises. In the past, an injured recruit would be washed out and allowed to come back for the next class, but this son of a quota-hire black chief was put on “light duty” for the remainder of the training class and graduated to the field after “completing” his training.

The present Chief of the SFFD is the former president of the Black Firefighters’ Association. He was appointed by San Francisco’s black mayor, Willie Brown. He thinks the selection process is still “biased” and wants to eliminate the written examination entirely. He says he will institute what he calls a “West Point-style” process of classroom teaching and volunteering. Applicants completing this training will then be “randomly” assigned a number by computer, and the department will then hire the lowest numbers. One can only guess at the abysmal depths to which the SFFD will sink if it is to hire firefighters at “random.”

There may be important reasons for this. Judge Patel has promised that after 10 grueling years, her consent decree was to have ended in late 1998. But that didn't stop Mayor Willie Brown from saying, “the [preference] process is now institutionalized to ensure that no matter which administration is in charge at City Hall, the San Francisco Fire Department always reflects the diversity that is uniquely San Francisco.”

Spgandcrew
Spgandcrew

By the way, to Chief Taylor live the same mantra and quit whining, you have definitely have overreached your dream. Count your blessings

Patsy
Patsy

It is my understanding that training is a part of everyday's activities at every firehouse in San Francisco, just as housework (cleaning the physical property) and maintenance of the equipment are. Wouldn't it be appropriate for officers to be discussing this information? Wouldn't it be appropriate for them to train and re-train all officers and firefighters? Isn't that information and training given to all on duty personnel? How then could this be a secret kept for just some when it is all there in the training manuals?I suggest that it is available to all who care to learn and those who spend more time and effort in studying those manuals and critiquing the fire incidents to improve on techniques will do well on a promotional exam. The answers to the exams are all there in the manuals!! Cheat away, if that is what the author of this article and his source call cheating.

Jmoo55
Jmoo55

I can't believe that someone that was given preferential treatment from being hired to the promotion process, would complain about this. To blame Chief Kenny for the faults stevenson and lee are a cop out. Anyone who knows stevenson, knows why he did not do well on the test. He had no business being a chief, let alone a fireman. Kevin, maybe you should go after St. Mary"s College. If you have a degree, why do you need the help of affirmative action? Your pompous and arrogant self, throws the race card. I can't believe what the SFFD has turned into. retired and happy. Jim Moore

Steve O'Neill
Steve O'Neill

This is in response to the Feb. 16, 2011 article, " Black Firefighters Say SFFD Officer Helped White colleagues Cheat on Exam " This article is outrageous and disgusting. I was fortunate to work with Art Kenny at 2 Truck. He is an outstanding fireman who gave over 40 years of his life to serving and protecting the people of San Francisco. He has the highest integrity and worked his way up through the ranks of the SFFD. No one gave him the job. He studied and worked for it. You should be ashamed for printing this article. Steve O'Neill ( Retired SFFD )

h. brown
h. brown

Matt,

You blew right by the 6 murders by Willie Brown that your subject referred to. Ask him about it. here's a connect to what happened to the poll worker who was about to turn in Willie for rigging the election for the Niners stadium.

http://www.brasscheck.com/stad...

Little too hot for you?

h.

Timmyyoung
Timmyyoung

I was a fireman for 33 years and becasue of all the politcal crap stayed a fireman. I saw white officers/chiefs who didn't have a clue and fell apart at big fires an were promoted and witnessede black guys dumb as a stump who I'm sure someone took the entrance exam for them and now all of a sudden are smart. Now that all the city higher ups are black the black guys are passing these exams with flying colors. This ___t! went both ways. Bunch of gad-dam cry babies. Some black guy starts whinning everyone bows to them. Jerks.

Robert Boudoures
Robert Boudoures

As a retired Assistant Chief of the SFFD, I am again incensed at accusations being made by Chief Taylor against Chief Kenney. Chief Kenney has more integrity than Chief Taylor ever will have and he has always made the SFFD his first priority.

Chief Taylor and Chief Stevenson have both made accusations against me in the past and they have seen how profitable it can be to yell racisim after doing poorly an exam.

The accusation on its face is pathetically ridiculous. If an Assistant Fire Fighting Chief can not figure out where a truck company would be placed at a fire given the type & location of the firethat person should not be a chief officer.

A person willing to ruin a person reputation and career based on their own greed and with such week BS should be made to prove his case or face suspension

The point: maybe Chief Taylor should put in more study time in - given his location on the current AC list and develop a little self pride.

Robert Boudoures, Assistant Chief SFFD, retired

Dredog
Dredog

ive never ever ever cheated on a test. only on girlfriends

 

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