Fighting Fire

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

In its profile of William Battle, the first black NYPD officer, the Times offers a comparison:


Today, blacks are 23 percent of the city's population, and 18 percent of all police officers. Black, Hispanic and Asian New Yorkers make up nearly 48 percent among all ranks, and among police officers they have been a majority since 2006. 

 Among higher-ranking officers, promoted on the basis of competitive civil service tests, minority officers constitute 39 percent of sergeants, up from 19 percent a decade ago; 25 percent of lieutenants, up from 13 percent; and 17 percent of captains, up from 5 percent. Of the 43 blacks who have passed the test for captain since then, nearly half have been promoted to higher ranks.

I was debating someone in comments a while back about the Times mixing stats. This is what I was talking about. It would be nice if they'd followed through on the black percentage of police officers up through the ranks.

But be that as it may, it seems like police departments have done a reasonably good job, in areas with diverse populations, of integrating. I've never understood why its been so much harder in the fire department:

In 1971, blacks constituted 32 percent of the city's population, but only 5 percent of the fire department. Almost four decades later, only 3.4 percent of the FDNY is black, and less than 7 percent is Latino. In a city with only a 35 percent white population, the FDNY is about 90 percent white... 

New York's fire department is also whiter than those in other cities. Of the fire departments in eight of the nation's largest cities, New York's is dead last in diversity.

It's not even so much that minorities are underrepresented in the FDNY as it is that they are almost invisible. 90 percent white is a really high number.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/fighting-fire/241062/