Groups ask state to investigate fire, police veteran hires

Two organizations representing minority police officers and firefighters asked state investigators Wednesday to look into hiring practices that they allege make it more difficult for veterans of color to get hired by Boston’s departments.

The request, filed by attorneys with the state Civil Service Commission, asserts that the Boston police and fire departments and the state Human Resources Division grant residential preference to veterans even if they didn’t live in the city before serving in the military.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice is seeking the investigation on behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers and the Boston Society of Vulcans, which represents black and Latino firefighters.


Competitions for police and fire jobs can be steep because the positions offer good salaries and benefits. State law gives preference to applicants who have been in the city at least a year.

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Veterans can receive residential status, the petition said, if they move into Boston within three months of being discharged from the service.

Christopher Bowman, who leads the Civil Service Commission, said the panel will review the request and schedule a hearing.

Boston’s police and fire departments use entrance exams administered by the state civil service system to identify candidates for open positions and rank them by their test scores. Applicants who have served in the military can elevate their ranking by claiming veterans status.

But some veterans who want to work in Boston are also getting residential preference — even if they haven’t lived in the city for a year before taking the test as required by law, said Sophia Hall, a lawyer with the committee.


“It looks like they’re putting people on the list that shouldn’t be on the list. We want to make sure that’s not happening,” she said. “It’s hurting our chances of making more diverse public safety agencies in Boston, which is what we desperately need.”

According to the investigation request, the state human resources agency lets veterans claim residential preference as long as they establish residency in the city or town where they want to work within 90 days of leaving the military.

Vulcans member Duaine Doyle said he has taken the civil service examination for the city fire department three times but has never been hired despite being a veteran who has lived in Boston nearly all his life.

“When residence preference is given to people who are not actual Boston residents like me, that harms the true Boston veterans and makes the city’s public safety agencies less diverse,” Doyle said in a statement.

Nicole Caravella, a spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, said the city will review the request for the investigation once it is received.


Since Walsh took office, the fire department has hired a chief diversity officer and the police department reintroduced a cadet program in an effort to diversify its ranks.

‘It’s hurting our chances of making more diverse public safety agencies in Boston, which is what we desperately need.’

A spokeswoman for the Human Resources Division said she was waiting on a response from the agency.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.