5 Black Firefighters File Racial Discrimination Suit

Five black firefighters sued the Inglewood Fire Department and the firefighters' union Tuesday, claiming that they were denied equal treatment and promotions because of racism in the department.

The suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that the Fire Department has no black management personnel, even though the city is more than 40% African American. The suit also alleges that blacks have limited access to training and certification tests and get worse assignments, harsher discipline and less fair evaluations than their white counterparts.

In addition, the suit argues that the Firefighters' Assn. failed to pursue their grievances with the same vigor it did complaints by white firefighters.

City Atty. James Ballas denied the claims and argued that the Fire Department has several high-ranking black leaders. Ballas said the city was anticipating the legal action because the five longtime firefighters filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1996.

"The city categorically denies these allegations and we have since 1996 when they filed an EEOC complaint," Ballas said. "It's not unusual in this department for black firefighters to rise to the top, and many of them have."

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