Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell called on city leaders to improve diversity in the city’s public safety agencies, including firefighters and EMS, on Tuesday.
"Diversity in our public safety jobs is important ... not just in our public safety, [but] across the entire city of Boston,” Campbell said in an interview with Boston Public Radio. “In all of our departments, but specifically looking at public safety, it builds trust. People in the community have been asking for their public safety agencies to be reflective of the demographics in the city of Boston for a really long time.”
Boston is considered a “majority-minority” city, with white residents representing only 46.3 percent of the population, according to a 2018 Boston Planning and Development Agency analysis.
But 2016 data from the U.S. Dept. of Justice shows that public safety agencies don’t reflect that diversity. Out of the 2,073 Boston Police officers in the city, 67 percent are white and 13 percent are female. Out of 1,511 firefighters, 72 percent are white and 1 percent are female.
“I think the numbers that are often not talked about are when you move up,” Campbell said, “‘when you look at the top tier ranks.”
Leadership positions present an even larger disparity. Out of the 121 BPD lieutenants, captains and superintendents, 86 percent are white and 7 percent are female. In the fire department, out of 367 deputies, captains and district chiefs, 83 percent are white and less than 1 percent are female. Out of 44 EMS chiefs, superintendents and captains, 73 percent are white and 23 percent are female.
The city hired an outside counsel following a recent Boston Globe report detailing harassment and discrimination reports from female firefighters.
Campbell, who released her own report, detailed 10 recommendations for the city to increase diversity, including providing diversity officers with more resources and a proposed study on civil service, or the hiring guidelines for public safety jobs.
“We have some folks in the departments who say it’s civil service that hinders our ability to increase the ability to increase the number of women and people of color, some say maybe not,” Campbell said. “So I say, let’s study it [and] look at the pros and cons of this system.”