In a recent interview, Carter said the department "is just dominated by white males" and that the climate has not improved enough under Clack.

"I think he's doing the best he can, but what he is doing isn't good enough," Carter said.

Clack expressed surprise at Carter's allegations, saying that Carter is among those with whom he frequently consults to be sure that department practices are racially equitable.

Clack rebutted the Blazers' claims that the department failed to hire enough African-Americans, pointing to statistics showing that about one-third of the members of the two most recently hired classes of recruits are minorities.

Clack said he has implemented strict — and universally applied — guidelines for discipline, replacing a system that allowed captains to mete out punishments at their discretion. The new system has caused many complaints, Clack said, because some firefighters had been accustomed to less rigid systems of discipline.

The fire chief also denied the Blazers' allegations of racial discrimination in promotions. Most promotions are based on scores on a written test, Clack said, and are overseen by the city's human resources department.

"It's handled in a very structured way," he said. "Whoever does the best on the test gets promoted."

The chief said he had the discretion only to promote firefighters to a dozen at-will positions — including the promotions he announced Tuesday. One-third of those dozen positions are held by African-Americans, he pointed out.

Clack said he supported the Blazers' mission — and is a dues-paying member of the organization — but wished that they would bring specific concerns to his attention so that he could remedy them.

"I think the purpose of the organization is noble, but I don't think what is going on here has any validity," he said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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