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Diversity in the Fire Service
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1980s

Holiday video 1

Moore Video 1

McGue Video 4

Golden Video 7

1980s

ENTER THE WOMEN
In 1980, Oakland hired its first two women firefighters. But women were not readily accepted into the "brotherhood". Women firefighters were, and still remain the most dramatically different newcomers to the culture. Issues such as firefighting as a traditionally male endeavor, societal constraints regarding men's and women's roles, and perceived capabilities came to the forefront.

When women first entered Oakland's fire department there were no veteran women to provide leadership or to influence perceived stereotypes. Skepticism about their abilities and disparaging talk undermined their acceptance. Women were thought to be unqualified: hired only because of affirmative action. Under constant pressure to prove themselves and subjected to the scrutiny of the community, women fought, and often still fight an uphill battle.



1981

THE ERA OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Samuel Golden was the first African American appointed as chief of the OFD. As chief, Golden was a controversial leader, vigilant in his effort to bring more minorities and women into the fire department. Despite criticism within the department that he sacrificed standards for the sake of diversity, Golden pressed on.

1985

CONSENT DECREE SETS NEW QUOTAS
A federal court judge ruled in favor of the Black Firefighters Association and mandated a consent decree that set quotas to increase the number of racial minorities and women hired to the force. Under the decree, new hiring rounds were to be 44% white, 41% black, 10% Latino, 9% Asian and .01% Native American. (Note: total is inaccurate due to court error.)

The decree was supported by Black, Asian and women firefighters, but opposed by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 55, the Oakland Hispanic Firefighters Association and two Native American firefighters.

1988

The Oakland Black Firefighters Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the OFD, charging that exams for lieutenant and captain positions were racially biased. One year later, the U.S. District Judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by Local 55 on behalf of 10 white male OFD applicants who claimed that the consent decree discriminated against them.

At the OFD, African Americans held the ranking positions of fire chief, fire marshal and assistant fire marshal. Six Latino firefighters were placed among the top 10 candidates on a potential academy training list, but due to the 10% hiring quota limit for Latinos, only two could be hired for each 20-person academy.

The Oakland Tribune reported that a large swastika and KKK symbol were spray painted on the front door of the Black Firefighters Association.

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