MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — News 5 investigates why two high-ranking positions in the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department (MFRD) are under evaluation to see if they are needed in the department. They’ve been vacant for months, and there are qualified candidates within the department. In fact, the top applicants tested in the top percentile, and they just happen to be African-Americans.
Now, the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters is stepping in and demanding answers from the mayor.
Southeast Regional Director of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters Brenda Brooks said, “There’s no deputy chief positions that are African Americans in Mobile Fire.” A spokesperson from Mobile Fire Rescue stated that claim is incorrect and there is a Black deputy chief.
Brenda Brooks wrote a letter to Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson when the men who applied for the promotion told her what was happening. She said, “I feel that there is some racism there. Once we start digging into the facts of the matter, the only reason, it’s definitely not qualifications because they tested in the 90th percentile.”
When two positions opened up in December, Black firefighter Dwayne Penn took the test. He earned the number one ranking. Brooks said, “Now he’s number one, and now they’re saying there’s no positions, but there were two positions open months before that test. Why would you waste taxpayers money on testing when you know there’s no open positions.”
When we asked MFRD about the Deputy Chief positions, we got a statement from Fire Chief Jeremy Lami.
“Over the past 4 years there have been changes to the organizational structure of MFRD in an attempt to expand capabilities, achieve ISO 1, and ensure there are adequate support and emergency responders to meet the needs of the City of Mobile. Since I was sworn in as Chief six months ago, I have been evaluating the Department to determine if the organizational structure is the best use of our resources and personnel, while allowing us to accomplish our mission in an efficient manner. We are simply still in the evaluation phase of department structure and no decisions have been made with regards to promotions for command staff positions. To be clear, this evaluation process is not related to the current promotional list, which is a reflection of our hard working and dedicated MFRD team members. Working with the Chief of Staff Johnny Morris and Chief of Operations James Frank, we are making a determination as to whether additional positions are required or if existing positions are necessary and how they should be organized. I trust their input and our path forward will be in the best interest of the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department and the citizens we serve.”Fire Chief Jeremy Lami
WKRG also pushed the City of Mobile for answers. We got a statement from Mayor Sandy Stimpson. It says:
“I have the utmost confidence in Chief Jeremy Lami and his administrative team as they work to continue evaluating Mobile Fire Rescue Department’s organizational needs while providing the exceptional first responder services that have earned them an ISO-1 rating. We have made a deliberate approach to diversify the fire department at every level and make it a better reflection of the citizens they serve. The last two fire classes are the most diverse in the history of the department. I know these efforts will continue to succeed under the leadership of Chief Jeremy Lami.”Mayor Sandy Stimpson
Brooks told WKRG News 5, the organization still plans on coming to Mobile on March 29. She said they hope to speak with the mayor on that day.
See the letter Brooks sent below: