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Florida bias suit settled.

The U.S. Justice Department has forced the City of Miami Beach to sign a consent decree mandating that the city pay $550,000 in back wages to African-American and Hispanic police and fire department applicants who were unfairly denied jobs since 1986. The April 22 settlement is seen as a victory for minorities in Dade County, which has a history of racial discrimination conflict.

None of Miami Beach's 199 firefighters are black, and only five of the city's 313 police officers are black. While only 3.6% of the city's population is black, its recruitment pool includes Dade County, which has a 21% black population.

"It's hard to argue with the inexplicable zero in the fire department with respect to blacks," notes Delora Kennebrew, the Justice Department's lead council in the case. "The purpose of the decree is twofold: to remedy past discriminatory effects and to offer employment to those who, but for this particular device, would have been employed by the city."

Minority applicants who took the exams on or after Jan. 1, 1986, and who met the city's minimum qualifications for employment will have their claims reevaluated. Those with the strongest cases for employment will be considered to fill 10 positions with the police department and 10 (five black and five Hispanic) with the fire department. According to Milton Vickers, assistant to the city manager, 18 blacks and Hispanics were refused jobs at the fire department, and at least four black police officers could have been hired in the two years prior to 1989.

City manager Roger Carlton says the real problem was that the city's civil service tests were not validated by psychologists, educators and other experts who evaluate exams for their cultural, racial of sexual bias. "We never admitted to any discrimination," Carlton asserts. "We just agreed that the tests required validation. Since that was not done, that could have resulted in discrimination."

Malik Mateen, president of the Progressive Firefighters Association, an organization that represents black firefighters in metropolitan Dade County, says, "It's a pleasure to see the federal government stepping in to see that justice is done, because people get frustrated with these [discrimination] games that people play."
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Title Annotation:discrimination against minority police and fire department applicants in Miami Beach, FL
Author:Lewis, Nicole
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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