JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A three-year investigation into hiring practices by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department by the U.S. Justice Department has determined "the city has engaged in a pattern of practice of employment discrimination against African Americans on the basis of their race."
The letter to the city of Jacksonville obtained by Channel 4 says the city must provide "make-whole relief" to those who have been harmed, including job offers, retroactive seniority and back pay with interest to black firefighters who were denied promotions within the Fire Department.
City officials said they can't talk about the Justice Department's findings. A lawyer for firefighters who are in the process of suing the city says more will be heard about this very soon.
Attorney Dennis Thompson, along with lawyers for the city and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, were in federal court Thursday at a hearing on three specific discrimination cases.
All the cases predate the Justice Department investigation -- one dates back 41 years. All claim the city discriminates in the Fire Department.
Federal Judge Timothy Corrigan told all sides that the cases need to end -- that the parties need to settle out of court. During the hearing, he told the lawyers someone will win and someone will lose and no one will be happy.
Leaving the courtroom, city attorney Cindy Laquidara did answer "no" when Channel 4's Jim Piggott asked if the Fire Department was discriminating.
"I can't discuss active litigation, but we are certainly defending the case that has been brought," Laquidara said.
The black firefighters in court are not happy. Terrance Jones, a JFRD captain, was unhappy the Justice Department letter was not discussed. Jones said the department is a reflection of the country as a whole when it comes to discrimination.
"It's not us against them," Jones said. "We want the right thing done."
The next hearing in these cases is set for July.