Hey, there! Log in / Register

Two Boston fire captains sue to take civil-service test state canceled after judge ruled similar police test was biased

Two captains in the Boston Fire Department, along with two firefighters in Everett and Whitman, today asked a judge to order the state to give a promotional exam scheduled for Saturday, which the state canceled to try to figure out what to do about exams after a judge in another case ruled that the test used to promote police officers to sergeants was racially biased.

Capt. Paul Lyons, with 18 years at BFD, and Capt. Sean Gibbons, with 25 years, say the cancellation of a test for possible promotion to district chief is unfair because they have spent hours a day for months studying for the test and are now each out $1,000 in fees and the cost of study book. They add it's particularly unfair because the test had originally been set for May, then postponed until this Saturday.

In their complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, they are seeking a temporary restraining order to make the state give the exam - and the similar exams canceled for the Everett and Winthrop firefighters. Although they have appealed the cancellation to the state Human Resources Division, any ruling from there would likely come after the test date and so too late to help them.

The division canceled the exams after Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins, ruled in a "statements of fact" on Oct. 27 - in a case filed in 2009 - that the current state emphasis on a written test based on rote learning to determine civil-service advancement in police departments at its core discriminated against candidates who were Black or not originally born in the US.

The false appearance of a fair process created inaccurate beliefs and created unwarranted expectations among candidates and appointing authorities. Those beliefs and expectations have had a life of their own in perpetuating a discriminary system that has injured qualified candidates and deprived the public of the benefits of having the best-qualified police sergeants. In all these actions [the state division] knew what it was doing.

PDF icon Complete complaint970.53 KB

Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!


Wait , so this is from a 2009 case and instead of spending the last *checks notes* 13 YEARS prepping for this moment they decided to instantly cancel all tests without a plan on how to move forward? That's ridiculous , the fees should be given back , the next test should be free and they deserve damages.


Case is from 13 years ago, but the judge's decision was 3 weeks ago.

Yes but if they knew that this was a concern and was being fought for this long that maybe they should have looked at what to do if they lost a case. It feels like the people that cant make these decisions are the ones being punished.


This may be a typo here - do you mean "make the state give the exam?"

We're not yet at the point of having tests self-administer themselves. Fixed.

And they simply don't have to "certify" it. That basically means the results on the old test continue until they either figure something out or the courts say that test is no longer good either.

My understanding the test is still a valid test, but it shouldn't be weighed as heavily as cities and towns are currently weighing them for promotional purpuses.


They get appointed by contributing to the winner of the Governors race.


Unless things have changed, judges at some point have to take the Bar Exam.

They don't. Not at the state level and not at the federal level.

When's the last time a judge was appointed in MA who had not passed the bar exam?

Person wants a supervisory role in an organization in which one pledges to serve all members of the public fairly and which would require supervising/promoting/hiring/firing people in an equitable manner.

Person finds out that the organization is going to look into changing some things to address systemic racism.

Rather than be relieved at the much-needed changes and proud of the organization for fighting racism, person decides it's unacceptable and launches into a lawsuit. This is pretty clear proof that the person lacks some bona fide job qualifications.

The "organization" (Fire/Police) didn't set up a system that fights racism either. They stuck with the old system (civil service) until a judge ordered that old system to cancel the test.

You missed the part where it was court ordered (or at least compelled by the loss in court) and there was no plan in place at any level for this possibility despite it being in the courts for over a decade. You are giving the credit to the wrong people, choosing the side of the orgabizations that failed to maneuver while blaming the end user who literally was just existing within the system.

Imagine if you go to get a degree at a university, you study and invest in it but when you go to get your diploma a court halts the program because the university system is not racially diverse enough. There is no plan on how you should move forward and some person on the internet's tells you that your being upset shows a lack of character. This analogy is quite apt, the entire SAT system and other tests have been shown to possibly have racial bias. It's a fact that minorities are underrepresented in degrees . So why should t we just halt everything with no plan?


Then I can make a judgment on this.