Category: Archive

Under pressure, Hub fire commissioner to quit

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — Ten months after a Boston Globe series criticized the Boston Fire Department for not using affirmative action to promote more women and minorities, Boston Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce Jr. is expected to resign from his position by year’s end.

"We believe there’s a time in everybody’s career when they have to look to other opportunities," Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters Tuesday morning. "But Marty has done a good job for the people of Boston. He’s been working with my administration over the last several months about a possible retirement date."

Pierce, who is 59, is reportedly being forced out because of a report about to come out that is highly critical of his management style and his reluctance to embrace affirmative action practices to make promotions within the department.

Earlier this year the department came under intense scrutiny when the three-part series in the Globe reported that the department, one of the oldest in the nation, appeared to have a disproportionate number of Irish-American men in top positions.

A caption under a series photograph featured a fire truck with a shamrock emblazoned on its side. It said: "To many minority groups, the shamrock adorning several fire engines and ladder trucks is a reminder that the Boston Fire Department remains an old-boy network, still controlled by white, mostly Irish-American men."

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

That February series sparked outrage among the city’s Irish-American residents. Former Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn told the Echo at that time that the series was "a cheap shot at the Irish-American community . . . which has made this department one of the finest in the nation."

But Menino, apparently upset by the Globe allegations, promptly set up a commission to examine the operations of the department, including its promotional practices.

Kathleen O’Toole, a member of the Patten Commission, which recently issued a report on police reform in Northern Ireland, was appointed by Menino to head that commission. Her formal report is scheduled to be released in early January.

The Globe series acknowledged that minorities have made significant inroads into the department pursuant to a 1974 federal court order and now constitute about 29 percent of the workforce, a ratio comparable to that of other big cities. It contended, however, that women and minorities feel justifiably aggrieved because they comprise only a small percentage of the highest-ranking jobs.

Pierce was reportedly dismissive of the Globe series when it ran. He described his practice of promotion through exam scores as "both colorblind and fair."

Ironically, on Tuesday of last week Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans effectively ended his department’s affirmative action practice of promoting minority officers over higher-scoring white officers. He decided not to appeal a Suffolk Superior Court ruling that said the department was wrong to promote minority officers ahead of 24 white officers who had scored higher on their written exams in 1996.

Those 24 officers are now expected to be promoted soon to the rank of lieutenant or sergeant.

Citing state and national trends, Evans said that recent court rulings against race-based promotions influenced his decision to scrap the current promotional practice of giving preference to minorities.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese