Seven of the 10 African-American union firefighters in Aurora resigned from Aurora Firefighter Protective Association Monday, claiming the union hasn’t done enough to recruit or help promote African-Americans, The Denver Post reports. Only 3 percent of the city’s firefighters are black, while blacks make up 14 percent of the population, the breakaway group said.
In a news release, the Colorado Black Professional Fire Fighters said the seven members were pulling out of the Aurora firefighters union “over a lack of support and issues surrounding the lack of recruitment” of black firefighters.
The Colorado Black Professional Fire Fighters has lobbied Denver’s Fire Department to increase the number of black firefighters, which more than doubled the number of black applicants testing for Denver firefighter jobs earlier this decade.
Aurora has 11 black firefighters out of a total force of 309, but only 10 were union members because one is in the department’s management. According to a 2006 U.S. Census estimate, Aurora has a population of 303,582, making it Colorado’s third-largest city, behind Denver and Colorado Springs. The census estimates Aurora’s African-American population at 13.4 percent.
The tension between black members and the Aurora firefighters’ union has been simmering, The Aurora Sentinel reports:
“These resignations came after a long-standing dispute with union officials over the lack of support and issues surrounding the lack of recruitment efforts towards black firefighters,” according to the statement.
The statement also said “the union intentionally hindered the promotion of qualified black candidates to the positions of chief and deputy chief.”
Neither the black firefighters nor representatives of the Aurora union wanted to comment, the Post and the Sentinel report.
A spokesman for the Fire Department told the Post that Chief Mike Garcia stood behind stronger recruitment efforts. “The chief is very supportive of a diverse Fire Department,” the spokesman said. “He feels the Fire Department should reflect the community it represents.”
Last year, the Post reports, the city allocated $30,000 to recruit firefighters, “much of that geared toward hiring minority firefighters.”