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Norwalk questioning ‘integrity’ of NFD firefighter testing process

The Norwalk Fire Department conducts a promotion and swearing in ceremony in 2018, in NFD headquarters. (Archive photo)

NORWALK, Conn. —An investigation is being conducted into the integrity of the latest Norwalk Fire Department testing process for new firefighters.
Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney confirmed there were issues with the test but declined to provide details.
Burney was responding to a NancyOnNorwalk inquiry stemming from rumors of a fire department personnel shakeup.

Burney said: “there are an ongoing investigations {Sic} and administrative processes regarding the integrity of the recent testing of candidates for Firefighter positions in the City of Norwalk. Until these processes are finalized, the City will refrain from extensive comments on this matter.”

The inquiry was sent to Mayor Harry Rilling, Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto and Norwalk Chief of Staff Laoise King, in addition to Burney. His reply was the only response.

Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said he was not aware of the city’s investigation until asked about it by Nancy On Norwalk. So far, he said, the police are not involved in it.

In May, Gatto proposed hiring four people from a group of applicants who were currently undergoing firefighter qualification testing. The department is facing at least 13 vacancies by December 2022, he said.

The fire department’s testing have long been a topic of controversy in Norwalk, with accusations that the test was biased against minorities. In 2016, the City revamped its requirements to, in then- Personnel Director Emmet Hibson’s words, “broaden” the field of candidates and be “a lot more inclusive in the oral exam than we have been in the past.”

In May, Gatto said 63 applicants from Norwalk took the written exam, with 52 passing. Of those who passed, 49 were male and three female; 35 were white, two were African-American, nine were Hispanic and six were identified as “other.”

8 comments

John ONeill July 27, 2020 at 9:18 pm

If the Fire Department skewed their results to favor a group they should be called out. If their tests turn out to be fair I would like to know who complained. Wouldn’t that be fair? Aren’t we in the period of transparency and difficult conversation?
Today’s American of the day is the classiest Olympian of all time. The fleet footed Jesse Owens made Hitler and his goons eat their words in Berlin in 1936. I’m just glad to be on Jesse’s Team. Thanks Jesse from a proud American. Thanks to Brian from Oakland, CA for the recommendation..

Steve July 28, 2020 at 8:22 am

I love the story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics but it’s not the whole story, There was a Jewish runner Marty Glickman that were supposed to be on the team that Avery Brundage the USOC head replaced him to assuage the Germans https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1746428-marty-glickman-jesse-owens-and-a-forgotten-story-of-the-1936-berlin-olympics. That was the same Avery Brundage that later kicked Tommie Smith and John Carlos out of the 1968 Olumpics for raising their fists during the national anthem. For Owens as was true for Muhammad Ali (Nee Cassius Clay) the return from Europe would include Jim Crow where Blacks couldn’t use pools, buy houses and multitude of other ordinary activities if whites were included too. Sadly, some of Hitler’s views on other races were influence by US policy to native Americans and Blacks. We need to reconcile our better angels against the history we don’t often acknowledge https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/30/how-american-racism-influenced-hitler

David T McCarthy July 28, 2020 at 12:50 pm

As I recall, the company that did the testing, etc. made the test superimpartial and then did a double blind result. If there were issues, it was likely someone on the inside of the system really subverting that system to get someone off that list. Shame.

John ONeill July 28, 2020 at 7:05 pm

@Steve: I loved Marty Glickman!! Saturday morning High School games on WPIX among many other things..As one who sees the glass as half full two things come to mind. 1) We have come a very long way as a country. 2) Please tell me of a better country on the planet and I’ll move there and you’ll never have to read another post from me. Win/Win for both of us.
With that in mind, today’s Great American Hero is Joshua Goldberg. Captain Goldberg was proud to help US win the Big War. Thanks Josh for everything you’ve done to make this place better.

MMurray July 28, 2020 at 8:29 pm

63 applicants for 13 openings? And more than 82% were able to pass? If the Senate passes the Anti-Police bill tonight there will be hundreds taking the fire test next time instead of the police test.

Tysen Canevari July 29, 2020 at 8:00 am

We need to give the Norwalk residents extra points on the test. When my mom passed away and I was there the first two firemen in the door were people i knew growing up in town. Very comforting.

BrianC July 29, 2020 at 8:48 am

63 applicants for a fire test does not sound like it “broadened the field”. How is this so? The police test gets hundreds. Typically a fire test will generate hundreds of applicants.

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