After Ricci Ruling, Black Firefighter Sues City

by Thomas MacMillan | October 15, 2009 4:51 PM | | Comments (40)

michaelbriscoe.jpgFirst white firefighters sued. Now it’s a black firefighter’s turn.

Michael Briscoe (pictured), a firefighter with the Engine 8 fire station on Whitney Avenue, filed a complaint against the City of New Haven on Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Connecticut. He argues that he was unfairly denied promotion to lieutenant because of the way that the city scored its 2003 promotional exam for firefighters.

The complaint alleges that the city weighs the oral and written components of the exam differently from how other cities do, in a way that has a disparate impact on African-Americans and resulted in Briscoe being denied promotion. Read the complaint here.

Briscoe’s complaint comes just three months after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the city had discriminated against a group of white firefighters when it threw out the results of that same 2003 exam. That case was brought by firefighter Frank Ricci and a mostly white group of fellow firemen. The case caught national attention during the Supreme Court session and the subsequent confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who had heard the case in the appeals court.

The Ricci case is in the process of being transferred back to New Haven following the Supreme Court’s decision. The city is awaiting a local court decision before promoting any lieutenants.

The reason Briscoe is suing now, rather than suing earlier: He had to wait to find out the results of the test. Briscoe states that he topped the field on the oral section, but not on the written.

(City Hall says it has not “publicly released results containing any names or identifiers that would allow test takers to identify which score belonged to” whom.)

Briscoe’s seven-page complaint, filed by attorney David Rosen, seeks promotion to the rank of lieutenant along with “appropriate monetary compensation, including back pay.” Or, instead of promoting Briscoe, the city should use “a nondiscriminatory selection system to make promotions,” the complaint argues.

“The basic point of the complaint is that the way that the two parts of the test were weighted made the test worse as a way to pick lieutenants,” said attorney Rosen, contacted by phone on Thursday.

The written component of the city’s test was weighted as 60 percent of the total score and the oral component as 40 percent. This breakdown stems from a 1986 decision between the city and the firefighters union, Rosen said.

A 60/40 weighting has been shown to have a disparate impact on African-American test-takers, the complaint alleges. “That’s been the experience in New Haven and elsewhere,” Rosen said.

The norm for promotional exams is to weight oral portion of the exam at 70 percent, according to the complaint. The document further states the city knew the test would have a disparate impact when it decided to weight it 60/40.

Oral exams are a fairer and more accurate way to judge the skills of a firefighter, the complaint argues. A heavily weighted written component places the emphasis on memorization and “therefore rewarded cramming,” the complaint states.

“The differences between the written test and the oral exam disadvantaged a candidate, like the plaintiff, who had diligently studied and learned all the material taught during years of on-the-job experience and extensive in-service training, compared to one who did little until the run-up to the exam but then memorized the facts that were included in the assigned written materials,” states the complaint.

Although Briscoe had the highest score in the department on the oral section of the exam, he ended up 24th overall: not high enough for a promotion.

He would have been promoted “if it had been scored in a sensible way,” said Rosen. A weighting of even 60 percent oral to 40 percent written would have given Briscoe a top score, making him eligible for promotion.

If the exam had been weighted like other city’s exams, more African-Americans would have been among the top scorers, according to the complaint. It states, “If the oral exam were weighted 70 percent — the norm for public safety agencies across America — the plaintiff would be ranked fourth, and three African-Americans instead of none would be in the top 12.”

The city’s actions with regard to the exam amount to a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint concludes.

When visited at his Whitney Avenue firehouse on Thursday, Briscoe declined to comment on his suit.

Responding to the complaint, city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden issued the following statement: “Since the day of the Supreme Court decision, the City of New Haven has been focused on moving forward not backwards. As soon as the matter returns to the United States District Court, the City will be seeking to certify the results of the New Haven Fire Department promotional examinations administered in 2003 and make promotions consistent with that list. Further, the City will continue to pursue better means for making future promotions in the Department.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, attorney Bolden said that the city would like to making sure that future tests are fair and unbiased, but that it is not interested in revisiting the results of the 2003 exam.

“The city is focused on the future,” Bolden said. “The best way to move forward is to certify the test results.”

Bolden acknowledged that the certification of the test results is “against Briscoe’s position.” But he said that the city is willing to ensure that future tests are conducted in a non-discriminatory way. “We think that makes sense,” Bolden said.

Asked if the Briscoe case is headed for the Supreme Court, Bolden laughed. “I have no idea what will happen in terms of future litigation.”







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Posted by: kamb | October 15, 2009 5:14 PM

If this guy has one ounce of pride he would stop. Hey Michael Briscoe here's a word to the wise, STUDY!

We're all created equal with the same abilites to succeed.

Pick up a book amd read it, study it, and know your job before taking an exam. Stop complaining and STUDY!

Posted by: roy4n6 | October 15, 2009 6:58 PM

The city and the firefighters union signed an agreement in accordance with a consent decree from/by the federal court. It has been law and the rule for over 40 years. Now Mr Briscoe wants to overthrow the law and union rules. You cannot have it both ways; try studying -- even it means cramming and memorizing all that might be on the test. I am tired of hearing about a disparate impact because of race, sexual preference, religion or political thinking. Put your big boy pants on and take responsibility for your own actions; stop blaming the "system" for your shortcomings and laziness. I have seen a number of minority candidates write extremely well on written exams and also on the orals. Chief Black is a prime example of one applying himself to make rank and move up within the department. And, no, I am not a firefighter. I am a retired cop who was impacted by the consent decree three time but still hung in and was able to climb fairly high in the PD rank structure.

Posted by: cas | October 15, 2009 7:55 PM

Briscoe better have a deal with his lawyer for the lawyer to pay when Briscoe gets countersued; otherwise Briscoe might find himself having his paycheck attached and bank account emptied out. He's being played for a chump by a publicity seeking jerk looking for attention, jealous over the New Haven 20's victory at the Supreme Court. Wait til Briscoe and his lawyer hear the evidence challenging Briscoe's claim that he studied hard for the exams. LOL. BRING THE PRESS to the that one.

Posted by: bartend39 | October 15, 2009 9:13 PM

... This is just an frivolous waste of time and the firefighters should sue the pants of Briscoe for bringing this foolishness. The case is over - the Supreme Court said so. Get over it Briscoe and try studying for a change.

Posted by: free speech | October 15, 2009 11:17 PM

ZZZZZZ...oh another one..ZZZZZ.

Posted by: Bill | October 16, 2009 7:24 AM

This firefighter is wrong, and so is some of the info in the paper. I was a Fire Commissioner in Illinois for 18 years, and early on in my tenure we went from 50/50 to a 60% written & 40% oral to REDUCE the issue of discrimination... as did other Illinois Commissions.

If you can't pass the written w/ high marks, you don't know the material.

PS If the Firefighter contract agreed to these terms, why does this Firefighter want to break the contract? Should the City likewise decide they are paying the Firefighters too much, and want to reduce their pay during the contract?

Posted by: SRG | October 16, 2009 7:26 AM

Okay. But. Who do you want fighting your fires? Who do you want saving you and your loved ones from a burning building? Someone who crams and regurgitates facts on a test that's out of context and has nothing to do with actually fighting fires? Or someone who can DESCRIBE IN DETAIL what he would do in a highly specific case of an actual fire - and scores the highest out of EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE taking the test?

Merit alone is what should determine promotion. In this case, merit is being unfairly calculated. Read the complaint.

Posted by: alyson leonard | October 16, 2009 10:01 AM

... Oral interviews are subjective and put into place so minorities can pass the test! One more thing maybe You can ask Briscoe! How is it possible that he got 40 questions wrong on a 100 question written exam!

Posted by: ELD4676 | October 16, 2009 10:29 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the exam undergo countless third party reviews to ensure it was fair and unbiased before it was administered? As sited in the complaint, if African Americans excel in oral exams, while non-African Americans excel in written, wouldn’t a 60/40 be fairer to all parties than a 70/30 split? Unless you’re just trying to sway things in your favor. Go through the proper channels and have the firefighter’s union renegotiate the 1986 decision with the city. And to be fair to everyone, how about we do a 50/50 split so no one has the upper hand? Please, stop wasting taxpayer’s money with lawsuits.

Posted by: notimon | October 16, 2009 11:02 AM

great job Briscoe. Fight for what is right, ignore the white complaints and fight this till the end.

Posted by: ahhh | October 16, 2009 12:00 PM

Grow up and smell the coffee why start more drama in this city do you think we have had enough with all this I want to be promoted I was high on the list please give me a break wait until they have another test and study hard. Stop with the crying

Posted by: moreorless | October 16, 2009 12:13 PM

SRG--don't buy this lawyers hype of--the written exam means nothing to judging a "Fire Officer." If that is the case, then written exams should not be used to evaluate Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Paramedics, Driver's License--in fact why don't we just start asking people--"Can you drive?"--yup, I can--okay, here's your license.
Multiple choice tests measure the ability to retain information and "regurgitate" it out when needed--like say on an emergency call in 1 or 5 years.

David Rosen:"Oral exams are a fairer and more accurate way to judge the skills of a firefighter, the complaint argues. A heavily weighted written component places the emphasis on memorization and �therefore rewarded cramming,� the complaint states."
Oral exams are not a "fairer and more accurate way," they only allow manipulators to use racial biases to mis-score oral in favor of minorities to avoid litigation from scum-bags like you. If you equate a college education and many years in the fire service to "cramming" for a promotional exam, what do you equate a your career to a hobby as an attorney. Cramming is for people like Briscoe who take no interest in their job other than the paycheck and benefits. Ask him how many classes and trainings regarding the Fire -Service he has taken on his own time. I am sure it is "ZERO"--he is too busy trying to find the next big money thing--like real-estate, poetry, or some other scam--I guess this is the next scam from Briscoe. 95% on oral--59% on written--no manipulation of scores there--ya-that's what I want for an officer. The written tests disadvantage any client/test-taker who has not studied the material. the only discrimination is between those who know the material and those who do not.
Let it go Briscoe--you failed to perform well enough to get promoted. Now you are just trying to delay the inevitable.

Posted by: SRG | October 16, 2009 4:52 PM

"in fact why don't we just start asking people--"Can you drive?"--yup, I can--okay, here's your license."

Yes, exactly - that is along the lines of promoting firefighters by asking them irrelevant questions. Since the oral exam is the closest thing they seem to have to an actual on-the-job evaluation, it's the written test that's the equivalent of asking, "Can you drive?"

And written tests absolutely ought to play a part in evaluating doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other people whose jobs depend on having a large amount of data stored in their heads. But that's not part of being a firefighter.

The second half of your post is an invented story.

Posted by: James FP | October 16, 2009 5:07 PM

Moreorless,

... You seriously think that judging a lawyer, whose profession largely involves reading and writing, with a written exam is comparable to judging a FIREFIGHTER whose profession involves SAVING PEOPLE FROM BURNING BUILDINGS

Posted by: JR | October 16, 2009 5:19 PM

Wow, that's a lot of blatantly racist invective being hurled at this Briscoe person in the first few comments.

Frankly, I strongly suspect that the oral test here is a better predictor of who will be the best leaders, as compared to the written test. In all likelihood, given a few days to cram, I could ace the written test. (I always ace written tests.) And believe me, you don't want me commanding firefighters. I have no idea what to do and would be terrible at it.

I'm not saying the outcome of this lawsuit is obvious -- it's not -- but I am saying you really should be careful about assuming that written tests are always the best. They're not.

Posted by: James FP | October 16, 2009 5:46 PM

Moreorless,

Your comment is absolutely off base. You seriously think that judging a lawyer, whose profession largely involves reading and writing, with a written exam is comparable to judging a FIREFIGHTER whose profession involves SAVING PEOPLE FROM BURNING BUILDINGS by a written exam?

This has been brought up countless times, but I guess I need to say it again:

Any Yale undergraduate Chemistry major could likely achieve a perfect score on the written portion of the exam. But would you really want that kid running into a building to save you?

Written exams have some value, but above a certain threshold, each marginal point increase in the score becomes increasingly useless in ordering one candidate's practical capabilities above another's.

Posted by: Moreorless | October 16, 2009 8:13 PM

Hey SRG--go to adversity.net look under "test scores," and you can see the truth of Briscoe's scores--you are correct in that I was wrong--he got a 92.08% on his oral--not a 95% and a 59 on his written. And for you to say a firefighter does not need a wealth of information in their heads as an officer, truly shows your ignorance to what the fire officer's job is. A written exam given to firefighters is based on written and practiced "national standards" and SOP's that the NHFD uses regularly, with the exception of 1 question out of 100 on this past test.
SRG--written tests in your own words are useless, now you say written test are good for Dr., nurses, lawyers, and motor-vehicle drivers--so make up your mind--is a written test a valid test to measure one's understanding of information, or is it not?--you can't have your cake and eat it too. It either is a valid tool, or it is not.
And to James FP--wake up--no I do not equate a firefighter's promotional exam to that of the Bar--what I equate is the "written test" as a valid measure of one's understanding and ability to retain important information--apparently your not bright enough to get that point. Some firefighters spend years going to college obtaining degrees, as well as, firefighting classes on their own time & dime. It is these guys that usually top the lists--so to the cramming issue--it is not cramming if you have taken 10, 15, and even 25 years to accumulate knowledge to perform well on these exams. Cramming is what Briscoe did, and as you can clearly see--it did not work out too well for him did it?
Why you people feel that firefighters are so special that everyone should disregard a written test score is idiotic. Firefighters can be evaluated just as easily as doctors, lawyers, and others who use written exams as part of the process. Both parts of this process should be used to evaluate competent candidates. This suit now--way after the fact is just another case of an angry black man that wants to change the rules to satisfy what he wants for not putting an equal effort to the higher scoring candidates.

Posted by: djf | October 16, 2009 11:10 PM

The weight of the oral should be more? I wonder if the NFL should change the weight of field goals vs. touchdowns? Maybe then the teams with the best kickers would win more games!
The ONLY reason you want the oral to weigh more is so that there's a "gray" area that can be created and assessors could be hand-picked to make sure promotional lists are more diverse, regardless of ability and knowledge. I also wonder that if Briscoe had scored higher on the written than the oral, would he find fault with the system. Here's a great idea: study harder and work on being a better brother firefighter and stop trying to destroy our great and noble profession with your selfish, me-first attitude.

Posted by: In fact | October 17, 2009 8:01 AM

There's alot of ignorance here. The oral exam does not test for the same thing as the written. The written part is the most important - it tests for actual knowledge. Briscoe failed that important test. The oral test measures communication skills, leadership potential etc. It is not designed to test your core knowledge. And whoever said retention of alot of info and data may be necessary for nurses or doctors but not firefighters also doesn't know what he's talking about. Firefighting involves many other things other than just putting water on fire - it is highly technical. Promoting someone who got nearly half the knowledge questions wrong is not only absurd, it is dangerous. Plus, the written exam is objective, scored by computer - no room for corruption. The "oral" method of testing firefighters is a well known scam where the scores are easily manipulated and it has been used as a tool to hire and promote unqualified blacks for PC reasons. Cities often stack the oral panels with blacks for just this person - they help their own out of solidarity because they know that is the ONLY way they are going to qualify as they can't do on merit by passing an objective exam. Sad but true.

Posted by: Please | October 17, 2009 11:17 AM

SRG

You must really think that Firefighters are unskilled laborers...

Yes, we have to make split second decisions, and guess what, most, if not all of them are going to be based on "large amounts of data stored in my head"..

I guess with your logic, an Emergency Room Doctor or Nurse has all the time in the world to make a decision about the care of the patient who is dying of a gunshot wound or cardiac incident..

I just hope those skills for the oral exam are helpful trying to explain why his whole crew gets killed after a roof collapses on them because he didn't know the "irrelevant" information about failure times for lightweight trusses, or why a brick wall fell on them when the steel beams expanded due to heating (what steel expands??? Really?!)

Please, only speak about that which you know first hand

Posted by: moreorless | October 17, 2009 11:23 AM

SRG--My statement's of Briscoe's scores are fully factual and you can either get them at City Hall, or go to "adversity.net", the New Haven Fire department is on the front page. Hit the tab that says "Test Scores"--he is #24=59--written score, and a 92.08% on the oral. Yes--he failed the written test! As far as the fire-training classes--it is "ZERO"--that is a guarantee.

To James FP--get off your high-horse pal, you are no better than the rest of us who put their pants on one leg at a time--are you seriously saying that no firefighter can be judged competent by a written test, but a lawyer can be--are you serious? What makes firefighters so special that they can not be judged competent and proficient with a written test and oral assessment combination? You are ignorant to what a firefighter's job description is--it is not just running into burning buildings. It is motor vehicles crashes, emergency medical calls, and any other emergency that does not fit into a police call. Regardless of how you demean and diminish a firefighter, which I think is disgusting, learn what the job entails before you criticize the tools used to measure one's ability to lead a group of men and women into life threatening situations. Even the military uses more than an oral interview to promote--you have to prove yourself first--New Haven is scared to use this avenue of "proving yourself" in testing because it will still lead to a promotional list that is White-heavy at the top.
Feel bad for a kid who failed a test 6 years ago and now wants rules changed after the fact so he can get money and a promotion he does not deserve.

Posted by: Whoaa | October 17, 2009 11:59 AM

Whooaaa - David Rosen has really stuck his neck waaaay out there. Talk about bravery plus . . .

Posted by: don't get the math here | October 17, 2009 2:30 PM

Let me get this straight. Three black firefighters scored high on the lieutenants' exam, well enough to be promoted into 3 of the limited vacancies. Briscoe crapped out on the written exam, getting nearly half the job knowledge questions wrong. The City of New Haven argued before the courts that previous exams produced high ranked blacks. But all those previous exams were weighted 60/40 written/ oral too. So what is Briscoe's point here? That the 60/40 weights are just unfair to dumb blacks - but not unfair to the smart ones? Are the weights unfair to all the whites who failed this exam? (more whites failed these exams than blacks. And what is this with Briscoe claiming that he only just recently found out what his score was - and that's his excuse for waiting until now to challenge the 60/40 system, long after the case was finally decided by the Supreme Court? The whole NHFD knew what his score was (it was a public record for crap's sake). This guy has a credibility problem.

Posted by: Al A. Bored | October 17, 2009 3:55 PM

Move over Gary Tinney, ...

Apparently, neither Briscoe nor his attorney can read. They should read the whole text of the Supreme Court opinion, specifically:


"..Our holding today clarifies how Title VII applies to resolve competing expectations under the disparate-treatment and disparate-impact provisions. If, after it certifies the test results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of our holding today it should be clear that the City would avoid disparate-impact liability based on the strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate-treatment liability."

Need that in pictures??

Posted by: reality check | October 17, 2009 6:56 PM

Brisco, Take this city for everything you can..They do it and everyone thinks it's a great accomplishment but when we do it, we are crying...Expose them racist for what they are...

Posted by: Common Sense | October 17, 2009 9:10 PM

Its over...Everyone who takes the Oral portion of the exam gets their fifteen minutes of fame...for some its shame. However, when taking the written exam one can hear a pin drop, in the silence of the examining room, as the minds of the candidates draw on what they have learned during their career to answer correctly the questions directly related to the fire officers responsibility. This is not a fifteen minute exercise judged by a three person panel who will ask only several questions. Those promoted will have many duties. They will oversee the fire company and fire station. They will conduct In-Station Training to ensure their company is up to snuff in working as a team. Many of the promoted officers will have taken fire related courses on their own time to enhance their knowledge and career. They are the ones that know only hard work and study will help them move up the promotional ladder. Time and time again they will draw on their knowledge in the heat of battle making decisions to save lives and property. They are responsible for maintaining discipline, safety and order for those under their command. And after they are promoted they will continue to study and learn ready to step up the next rung of the promotion ladder. How do I know? I've been there and done that!

Posted by: unreal | October 17, 2009 9:37 PM

Reality Check,
Let me get this straight, you can honestly compare the Ricci case to the briscoe case?? Let's take a look at this for a minute. In Ricci the plaintiffs had no idea how they scored but banded together after the city disregarded the results of a fair, valid, and race neutral promotional exams because of their race. The Ricci plaintiffs believe those who scored highest on the exams should have been promoted regardless of race. Briscoe on the other hand believes he deserves a promotion based on what? Because he did well on the oral? Even though he failed the job related written with a 59? Let's keep this simple, when the city announced the exams, the study material and the relative weights they essentially " set the rules" Ricci and the 20 wanted the city to follow "the rules" when they didn't....well that is history. Briscoe on the other hand wants to change "the rules" after the results were in and the US Supreme Court ruled on this case. Unfortunatly Michael masks his ignorance with arrogance.
And to Mr. Rosen remember this the other public safety agencies who give more weight to the oral vs the written require the candidate to PASS the written exam before advancing to the oral / assessment center. Last time I checked a 59 was far from passing.
To all you briscoe supporters ask yourself this, do you really want a fire officer who was only right 59% of the time when it came to his knowledge of the job??? Next time you talk to Mike ask him about state st, Howard ave, or the infamous engine 11 hose change all serious operational errors by none other than Briscoe himself. (that's just a few) listen to his excuses and finger pointing and then you will realize why he did so well on an oral, he is one heck of a BS'er.

Posted by: bartend39 | October 17, 2009 11:03 PM

Here's a reality check for "reality check." Briscoe is gonna gain nothing, except maybe a lesson for being taken in by an obsessed, publicity seeking lawyer looking to gain attention to himself. Pitiful.

Posted by: SRG | October 18, 2009 12:24 AM

James FP: Yes. Exactly.

Others: If the oral exam involves describing in detail what a firefighter (absolutely a skilled laborer, by the way - that's exactly why it's necessary to make sure only the most qualified are promoted) would do in a highly specific, well fleshed-out situation, then the only people I want helping me fight fires are the people who score the highest on that. Period.

Often, standardized written tests measure nothing more than one's ability to memorize facts, and regurgitate them in the context of taking a standardized test. Not an ability that has anything to do with fighting fires. Which should play a greater factor in promotion: demonstrated ability to handle specific job-related situations? Or the ability to take multiple-choice tests?

Saying that this skill is unrelated to the job of being a firefighter is not demeaning firefighters. I have nothing but respect for these brave people who risk their lives on others' behalf. Intelligence is ABSOLUTELY necessary to be effective on this job. Unfortunately, standardized tests are known to be an inaccurate measure of intelligence.

Yes, the weights are unfair to the whites who failed the exam, provided that they scored as high on the oral as Briscoe did.


And no, the oral exam is not "designed" to promote "unqualified" minorities. That is incorrect and racist. In fact, the oral exam is designed to be unbiased - it's adjudicated by panels of top firefighters of multiple races who aren't even from Connecticut.

Posted by: EnoughAlready | October 18, 2009 11:23 AM

I find it interesting that two of the above comments (one by NOTIMON and the other by REALITY CHECK) mentioned racism and "ignore the white complaints". How do either of those people know what color the commentors on this story are? The other comments are intelligent and well thought out opinons actually having a debate on this issue. NOTIMON and REALITY CHECK are certainly not part of the debate- I'd say thinking like theirs is part of the problem.

Posted by: robn | October 18, 2009 12:25 PM

I agree with most of what INFACT wrote. Written exams test knowledge and oral exams test communication skills.

However, INFACT and so many others have missed what BILL recognized...oral exam scoring is subjective and can be biased toward or against anyone... African Americans, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, etc... it sounds like a good idea to me that oral exam scoring weight is reduced.

Posted by: moreorless | October 18, 2009 4:31 PM

So in some poster's opinions (SRG), as I stated before, we should do away with all written testing because it measures absolutely nothing--where do you come up with this crazy stuff? When you go get your driver's license, walk in and answer the one question test: "Can you drive?" Yup--sure can--okay here's your license. That is the equivalent to an oral--not a written--wake up. A 5 question oral assessment can only measure so much--and if you have 10 different panels of 3, then that's 30 subjective opinions--that is not too fair to me...Other measures need to be included at an equal weight, i.e. a 'written exam," which is just as important as an oral exam. If you really want to improve the testing measures, add into the mix: college education, classes in fire education and training, and some seniority points. That would certainly allow for the most qualified candidates to come to the top of the lists.

Posted by: fd insider | October 18, 2009 4:36 PM

Personal feelings for briscoe aside... his complaint is absurd, lacks factual information, is insulting and a detriment to the fire service.

Test scores are not arbitrary, they are subject to collective bargaining.

Oral exams are subjective and for years have been suspect of been tampered with by way of stacking panels in an effort to favor minorities. It appears that IOS solutions was a company of great integrity and would not allow this.

The score is composite for a reason, it tests the candidate on cognitive and psychomotor recall, both on technical information and tactical thinking, required by a company officer.

Assessment centers are not a panecea. In fact they have shown and equal and even worse adverse impact then the system currently used. Furthermore, assessment centers also have a written component called in-basket excercises, and are usually a large portion of the overall grade. This is not merely a situational based test.

For firefighters that cannot grasp the basic concepts of firefighting, cannot learn thier district, cannot pump a fire apparatus without assuring proper connections and potentially causing thousands of dollars of building damage, doesn't abide by the most basic rules and regulations, much less show up to work on a saturday now and then. This type of test would be even more devasting.

Besides, isnt this getting kinda old? Get over it.

Posted by: FireBuff | October 18, 2009 9:31 PM

Hum - SRG thinks it's "racist" to state that oral exams are preferred by blacks because, unlike an objective, computer-scored written exam, oral scores, which are based on the "subjective" view of the panelist, are easily rigged to boost minorities for quota purposes. (There have been scandals over just that type of practice). Why did Briscoe get half the questions wrong? Really, why? Cause he's black?? Come on. Is Briscoe racist?? Because that is exactly what HE is asking for. His lawsuit actually claims that written exams are bad for blacks because they can't pass them or score well on them, on par with whites and thus asks that written exams be banned. Briscoe is making the very racist claim that SRG is criticizing. What lawyer would go into court with this racist garbage. Briscoe's suit is actually asking a federal court to declare that blacks are too unintelligent to pass and score well on a written exam. Yuck.

Posted by: No Redux Here | October 18, 2009 9:44 PM

Folks, stop wasting your time debating the tests. Briscoe's suit is legally frivolous... A "friendly" suit for the city to try to use as an excuse to try to bypass the union contract and get rid of the exam weights. Ain't gonna happen. ..

Posted by: BOOKMAN | October 18, 2009 10:53 PM

Considering that numbers do not lie lets look at some interesting numerical facts here.

Mr Briscoe had the highest numerical difference between oral and written scores at 33.08 points. The average difference in scores for all passing candidates was 6.9 points. That is quite a difference.

It would be a reasonable assumption to say something is a little strange here. In the objective phase of the exam Mr Briscoe failed. But in the subjective phase he excelled.

Now if one looks at the difference in oral/written scores you will also see big differences in candidates 9,10, and 13 all white males who scored well on the written but seemed to do much worse in the oral.

Now if I were an attorney I would do a little research to find out if by chance these white candidates sat at the same panel as Briscoe (Briscoe's panel was the only ALL african american panel). Could it be a coincidence? or a conspiracy?

Had Mr Briscoe passed his written test with a 70 his combined score would have been a 78.83 putting him at number 12 which would have earned him a promotion.

What people like SRG fail to realize is that a written test actually tests more than a candidates ability to memorize information and regurgitate it. It also, to some extent, measures a persons commitment,dedication and ability to learn. Had Mr Briscoe put in as much time and effort studying as say...Mr. Watkins (also african american)who achieved an 86 on the written he would have had a combined score of 88.43 which would have ranked him number 2.

SRG says he only wants people who score well on an oral helping him fight fires. The people i want LEADING me at fires are the well rounded candidates who can pass both a written job knowledge test and an oral assessment.

But all this really amounts to is nothing, at the end of the day if my aunt had ba!!s she'd be my uncle...but she doesn't and if Briscoe passed he'd be a Lieutenant...but HE DIDN'T

Posted by: myhood | October 20, 2009 12:01 AM

You guys in the main tribe just crack me up. You develop a method of cheating that is difficult to detect, and then you claim righteous indignation when you are called on it. You can't cheat on an oral exam, so you give the written exam more weight and share the written answers among your clique so that even a dyslexic can pass it if he studies the answers long enough. Cheating and getting away with it is one thing, cheating and claiming superiority is another. While you all may be qualified firefighters, I for one am not fooled.

Posted by: calling out myhood | October 20, 2009 1:04 PM

Actually, in Philadephia, it was whites that uncovered the scandal that african americans were cheating on orals. Questions are typically made up by panelists at a round table, a few days prior to the exam. Un scrupulous panelists can easily leak the questions and answers to thier cronies. This has happened here as well.


As far as this guys concerned, i think he just got somebody elses score, that also happened a few years ago, civil service personnel are inept at best. They were the ones that screwed up a few scores on a lieutenants and battalion chiefs test a few years ago.

I really dont believe that the tests are rigged by any machine to favor one group or another, if it appears that it does accidentally or not, the city will just throw out the test and screw the guys that worked the hardest. They already proved that.

Posted by: ltmike | October 20, 2009 2:27 PM

Bookman is dead on. Looking at the results as a whole, Mr. Briscoes case is even more damaging... call me crazy, I feel bad / sorry for him. Crying after the results is just sour milk, he is a sports fan and should know that. NOT passing the written in itself should keep a man of pride silent (and perhaps make that person work harder). NOT EVEN PASSING! In case it was missed the initial time. The exams are multiple choice so the answer is in front of the test taker. One can go back review that bubble sheet and contest. No grey are there! The oral phase is subjective and corrupt. My oral panels the last time just go back to. Questions were rumored to be given to the Firebirds early and it helped get some promotions. Candidates went to one of three oral panels... one of those panels destroyed whites going through the panel (FACTS don't lie). That would be a great story for the NHI to go back, pull the scores and show the written and orals (orals based on panels and race) and look into the 'curve' needed as well! 41 Promotions made, I am not passing judgement (I really don't have an opinion on) just stating what the feeling in the firehouse WAS / IS, many should NOT have been promoted and the exam was labeled a JOKE! That same bargained 60 / 40 split we have promoted many minorities the last exam, nobody went to change it. There is NO perfect method to testing and no perfect way to promote or hire. But I think it is fair for everyone to say, that you should have to pass ALL portions of the exam process to be taken seriously as a viable candidate!

Posted by: MyHood's ... | October 20, 2009 8:58 PM

Yeah MyHood - all the white guys who failed the exam cheated.

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