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The Feb. 5 Worcester NAACP meeting: WPD, WFD and diversity

By Gordon T. Davis

Each Worcester NAACP meeting I go to seems to have a ton of information and some surprises.

The meeting on February 5, 2015, was no different.

There was a report by the Worcester NAACP housing committee coordinator of a tenants union called the Fruit-Sever Tenants Union which is in a legal battle with a local landlord operating under HUD rules.

Some of the Tenants Union’s members have been threatened with arrest by the Worcester Police, should they enter the building and meet with the tenants who are also members.

Reportedly, this is against HUD rules for HUD associated buildings. The issue is now being worked on by Congressman Jim McGovern who is reported to be clarifying the rules with the Worcester Police.

At least one member of the NAACP expressed criticism of the threats of arrest made by the Worcester Police.

Worcester Police Officers Spencer Tatum and Miguel Lopez, both in the WPD gang unit, gave a presentation of the City’s efforts to diversify the Worcester Police Department.

Officer Lopez is also the Affirmative Action Officer for the Worcester Police Department. Although that position has no job description, he does outreach to the different communities about the Civil Service Examination that applicants for the Police Department must pass.

The Civil Service Exam is given every two and it is used by all of the cities and towns’ police departments to choose candidates. An exam taker must be between 21 and 32 years of age in order for the Worcester Police Department to consider the exam taker for a police officer position. The City’s thinking is that it wants about 32 years of service from each police officer.

There is a form of forced retirement at age sixty-five. It is not clear to me that this practice does not violate anti-age discrimination statutes.  People under 40 are not protected by the anti-age discrimination statutes.

The Worcester Police Department is under a consent decree agreed to in 1980s that require a Worcester police force of 19.9 percent Black and Latino officers.

The Asian population is not included in the consent decree nor are women.

Presently, there are no Asian women on the Worcester Police Department.

During the last Civil Service exam seven Asian women passed the exam, but they were quickly hired by police departments in other Massachusetts divisions.

There are today two Black women police officers in Worcester; both of whom are near retirement.

Veterans passing the Civil Service Exam are by law chosen before other candidates. The military police who served in Guantanamo and who have taken the Civil Service exam will likely be hired first. It is not known how many military veteran exam takers will be White, Black, or Latino. Almost all Worcester Police officer applicants have BA degrees, although this is not a requirement.

The fee for taking the exam is $100.

One member of the NAACP said that he was interested in taking the exam, but he was unemployed. He asked if there were some funds available for test takers like him. Police Officer Lopez said there was a community group that paid for “minorities” who showed need to get money for the fee.

The Worcester Fire Department is also under a similar diversity consent decree as the Worcester Police Department.

When, surprisingly, the Worcester Fire Department reached its goal of 19.9 percent Black and Latino firefighters, it petitioned the courts to be relieved of the consent decree.

Subsequently, the percentage of Black and Latino firefighters in the Worcester Fire Department has steadily fallen.

It was suggested that the “minority communities” again sue the City of Worcester to have a new consent decree for the Worcester Fire Department.