Minority Boston firefighters pressure Mayor Walsh for more diversity

BOSTON — A group of Boston firefighters say there isn't enough diversity in the ranks and they're calling on Mayor Walsh to act.

According to Walsh's office 84 percent of the firefighters hired during his administration are white, something the Boston Society of Vulcans and Lawyers Committee for Economic Justice say is unacceptable.

"We have one of the largest public safety agencies in the City of Boston here that simply does not reflect the community that it's serving," Sophia Hall from Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice said.

Darnell Higginbottom is the president of the Boston Vulcans, representing firefighters of color.

"How does that make you feel to not see hires that look like you are me? I know the opportunity it presented to me and other people before me," he said.

The Vulcans and the Lawyers Committee sent Mayor Walsh a letter Thursday asking his office "to extend a residency requirement for applicants who live in Boston neighborhoods, create a cadet program, tap people with specific skills, and implement better training for working in communities of color."

Walsh said he is being targeted unfairly, pointing out the Boston Fire Department now has the first ever office of diversity and he's working with lawmakers on the residency requirement issue.

"By pointing me out is completing wrong. It's posturing," he said.

Walsh also said department veterans have preference for promotions by law.

"There's veterans' preference in the city, they're veterans' preference in the state, and there's veterans' in this country. So I think the Vulcans; they haven't spoken to me about this, and they know, the people who wrote that letter know the challenges we have as a city," Walsh said.

Mayor Walsh also said the work being done with the office of veterans affairs to recruit armed services veterans of color to the take the civil service exam.