KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in history, the Kansas City Council, the firefighters union and the fire department have approved a union contract to address longstanding equity and inclusion issues in the department.
“I think this is a good start because it’s actually adjusting the institution via codified language, but there still has to be more culturalistic understanding,” Councilman Brandon Ellington said.
Last month, the group EFFECT, a collective of Black firefighters, stood before council to detail allegations of racism and discrimination. Lawsuits for race and gender discrimination have cost the city millions of dollars.
FOX4 put in a records request to find out the demographics of the department. In a city where more than 30% of the population is Black, 14% of the department is Black and 7% Hispanic. The numbers for management are even less diverse with 8% of the department’s leadership identifying as Black and 5% Hispanic.
“You’re going to see diversity of recruitment fairs,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “Traditionally, we have not done enough work there, and it’s important that both the union and the city are committed to making sure we see change in our fire department.”
The new contract also bans trading, which allowed firefighters to switch positions among themselves. Opponents claimed this practice blocked a more diverse group from climbing the leadership ranks.
The contract also mandates annual diversity, inclusion and equity training and a firefighter apprentice program to attract and retain candidates of all races.
Tim Dupin, president of the Local 42 union, said this contract is a step in the right direction.
“Cultural change and just recognizing the issues and having a quick and responsive conversation on resolving those issues and having city government that is interested in resolving those issues,” Dupin said.
The city will soon create a Chief Equity Officer to oversee all city departments to create a more inclusive environment for all city employees.
The contract establishes a new KCFD Diversity and Recruitment Officer at the rank of captain that will report to the city’s Chief Equity Officer.
It will also mandate the creation of a firefighter/paramedic apprentice program to attract more KC residents. This will increase diversity of applicants, pool of applicants, and provide opportunities for Kansas City youth to receive paid training as a pipeline toward a rewarding career with KCFD.
There are also plans to hire outside counsel for $300,000 to independently investigate the policies, practices and procedures of the fire department and specific allegations of racism and discrimination that were revealed in a Kansas City Star investigation.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we never repeat the same mistakes that happened in the past and build on our future to make sure we have an inclusive equitable fire department,” Dupin said.