City talks about JFRD discrimination lawsuit

Attorney says Justice Department report based on statistics

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Until Thursday, the city had been reluctant to talk about a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department since the U.S. Department of Justice's findings were revealed a week ago.

The Justice Department said a three-year investigation revealed the city discriminates when it comes to promotions within the Fire Department.

The city, which is named in the lawsuit, says that's not true, and it's now preparing to fight the suit.

City attorney Cindy Laquidara said the lawsuit is based on statistics.

"I can tell you that none of our elected or appointed officials intend to discriminate," Laquidara said.

Laquidara said in the short time city leaders have been aware of the suit they just don't see what the Justice Department claims: that statically more blacks fail the firefighter promotional test than whites.

"In the preliminary analysis that we were able to do in the 30 days, we can tell you we disagree on the math," Laquidara said.

In the federal lawsuit, the Justice Department says African Americans pass the exam at significantly lower rates than white candidates. It says African Americans who pass the exam are rarely promoted.

Mayor Alvin Brown was at the Jacksonville fire union Thursday but did not stop for comment on the lawsuit.

The fire union at one point said it would have a statement, but now says it's not going to comment. It said it wants the process to speak for itself.

Laquidara said the promotional test can't be released because it's being used by the Fire Department. The suit asks the city to stop administering the test and find another selection process.

The suit also demands back pay and promotions for those affected. The city is working on challenging that.

Capt. Terrance Jones, vice president of the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters, said last week that he just wants the right thing done.

"I want the Justice Department to do their job and do justice," Jones said. "That is what we pay them for as taxpayers. Just do their job. It was brought to their attention, so now find a solution."

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