Felons As Firefighters? New York State Law Aims to Stop Employment Discrimination Against Ex-Cons. FDNY Considers Hiring Felons

My opinion of having felons in the fire service is no secret. I don’t think felons should be firefighters…period. That being said, I have kept my mind open to comments in the past and have often extended the question to those who disagree with me “Name a good felony”. My intention isn’t to rehash this topic necessarily. I am actually looking for thoughts on these new developments out of New York State.

Read over the following article, check the links, and then let me know if you think this is a good idea or not.

Past articles related to this include:

I have heard from felons. Some holding high ranks within the fire service. They have been very cordial in offering their story, their deal, their thoughts. I have appreciated every one of them. I have never cast them away or told them to go pound sand. I have embraced those who have made good on their past indiscretions and turned their lives around. However, I still feel as though we have too many great people to chose from than to have felons as firefighters.

STATter911.com ran a recent story about a Fire Chief and cohort who took advantage of junior members…sexually.

When Joseph Carilli became chief of Connecticut’s Coventry Volunteer Fire Association in 2006 he made the news. That’s because Carilli had served eight months in prison in 1985 when he was 24-years-old after being accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. According to Courant.com, Carilli told reporters in 2006,  ”It was a very bad situation and it should have never occurred. I’ve changed my life 180 degrees since then.” If the news over the last six months is any guide, it appears Chief Carilli really changed his life 360 degrees.

My point is simple. They said they had changed…but they hadn’t.

Need more examples? Captain Wines detailed the downward spiral in Botetourt County, VA with their already convicted felon and Fire Chief Billy Joe Carter in this series of articles here. I believe Carter is still incarcerated…but he was cleaned up…or so they say.

Here is another example of convicted felons as firefighters…let’s say they weren’t walking the straight and narrow.

Do we really need to take the chance with felons? We have a reputation to uphold. We are trusted. Do we need this unnecessary question of our integrity when bringing felons on the line?

Now this…FDNY Announces It Will Consider Felon Applicants

You should read the story. FDNY hasn’t willingly opened its doors to felons. As a matter of fact, the city’s notice to applicants still states that convicted felons “are not eligible for appointment to this position.”

The FDNY will consider hiring convicted felons with a “Certificate of Good Conduct” from the state parole board, the department said in a notice posted last week. Such applicants will get a “special review.”

The notice to potential applicants includes the text of a state law aimed at stopping employment discrimination against ex-cons who have done time and stayed clean.

“It’s not something we signed up for or control. It’s something we have to abide by,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long.

Sources said the posting stems from the court case in which Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis has ordered the FDNY to remedy racial imbalances.

I have seen other departments open their doors to felons. Richmond, VA and Bridgeport, CT being two that come to mind.

Paul Mannix, President of Merit Matters writes:

I don’t object to someone being given a second chance, depending upon the circumstances of each individual case and there being strong, verifiable evidence that the person involved is truly repentant and has exhibited this repentance over a long period of time. One of my statements that wasn’t included in the reporting is that, “I don’t want these Certificates handed out like candy”. [original story here]

About Merit Matters:

Merit Matters is an advocacy group dedicated to preserving merit in the FDNY testing, hiring and promotion process. To achieve this we will attempt to:

– Work within the FDNY on issues of mutual concern
– Counter false claims and information disseminated by others
– Seek relief from outside agencies when necessary
– Educate and engage the public through use of the media
– Demand equal treatment for all, which means special privilege for none.

We believe in equal opportunity, not guaranteed results. We want standards to be high, meaningful, equally applied and blind to race, gender or ethnicity. Written and physical exams should ensure that the MOST QUALIFIED applicants are chosen; they should NOT be designed to have as many applicants as possible pass