The University of New Haven’s fire science program provides an advanced technical background for students, but are they not preparing them enough?
Although the city says it has no plan on following through with a new measure that would require potential employees to pass a Candidate Physical Ability Test, the New Haven Fore Union, Local 825, supports the proposal.
“The CPAT is an agility test that measures ones ability to perform the essential job functions of a firefighter.”
Other organizations say it is a racist tactic used to deny city residents opportunities, especially communities of color.
The test is recognized by the Justice Department as job related, but not everyone agrees. Victor A. Bolden, the city corporation counselor, said, “From the outset, the City’s Fire Department intended to ensure that candidates for the entry-level firefighter positions had sufficient physical agility skills to do the job, but not by using Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).”
The CPAT is viewed as a “racial controversy” after the union agreed to support a measure introduced by the Fire Commission to require a CPAT as a perquisite at time of application, and it is now being debated on whether to use or not based on the promise of equality among all applicants.
“This test will deny many New Haven residents the opportunity to be firefighters, especially women and communities of color,” said Lt. Gary Tinney, who is first assistant director of the black professional firefighters. Tinney believes in a diverse workforce and advocated that this career has gotten inner city youth off the streets, reducing both crime and gun violence.
After ensuring that the union would make sure a potential applicant was not discriminated against based on their economic status, they made a unanimous vote at last months meeting in favor of the CPAT. They also voted to send a letter to the mayor recommending that all new employees of the city be required to take it.
Union officials support their claim by stating, “We can’t find any documented case where a candidate failed out of any training academy in the nation for lack of physical fitness once they passed CPAT and that the applicant after passing should be confident that they can meet the physical fitness level necessary to complete the academy.”
In addition to ensuring that no discrimination will take place, Frank Ricci, union vice-president said the union is “providing preparation classes and transportation to take the practice and final tests,” and the costs of the application process will be covered. This is an attempt to settle citizen’s claims of “hardship.”
The rebuttal for his argument, made by Mike Neal, president of the New Haven Fire Birds Association, is that the city cannot afford such costs. The test costs $150 per person. It is not state mandated, and Neal thinks that the city will not be able to provide the adequate amount of services for all New Haven applicants.
The CPAT is going to have many who either agree or disagree with it, but Rev Boise Kimber, pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church, stated an alternative option, “no one is afraid of the CPAT, but allow the CPAT to be done during the training academy after people have been hired.”
Kimber, against the CPAT, said “this is an old trick; you change the game when it appears that a large numbers of blacks are applying.”
As times change and new standards are set, there are going to be more prerequisites necessary. Citizens who have commented on the issue have stated, “the most effective workforce is one that is educated, able, competent, and diverse, which is what this will test, and question how a ability test is viewed as racists.”
A comment on the New Haven Register article concerning the topic stated, “In my opinion it is to easy. We replaced our physical agility test with the CPAT many years ago. Since then, the failure rate in in our recruit academy has jumped to almost 30%. I have served as a training officer, and I can definitely say, that we have hired candidates only to release them due to a lack of physical strength.”Tweet