Lloyd Carter, deputy chief of recruitment for the Baltimore Fire Department, is suing Baltimore City and the fire department for racial discrimination in employment. Carter, who is Black, alleges in the federal lawsuit that he was passed over for promotions and subject to internal affairs investigations because of his race. He is seeking $3 million in damages.
Many argue Carter's complaint is reflective of a decades-long pattern of racial hostility towards Blacks in the city's fire department. The city and the fire department have not officially commented on Carter's allegations.
Carter, almost a 30-year veteran of the department, previously oversaw the city’s fire academy, but was reassigned to his current position after it was discovered an academy instructor passed confidential test questions to students.
“Clack removed Carter from his position without warning or advance notice, and transferred him to a newly created position of Deputy Chief for Recruitment,” according to the complaint referring to Baltimore Fire Chief James Clack. “The position did not exist. It did not have any duties or responsibilities.”
The department hierarchy maintains Carter wasn’t moved specifically because of the testing scandal, but other problems unearthed at the academy during an investigation may have also contributed to his transfer. The department’s training facility has been plagued with controversy over the years.
In 2004, the academy hired an all-White class of recruits in a city that at the time was about 64 percent Black. It was the first time there had been an all-White recruiting class since the department was integrated in 1953.
In February 2007 fire cadet Rachael Wilson, a wife and mother of two children, died of asphyxiation during a botched training exercise in a burning West Baltimore row house. Wilson was the only Black female cadet in that class. The tragedy allegedly contributed heavily to the decision to dismiss then Chief William Goodwin in 2007.
He was replaced by Clack in 2008.
Carter’s complaint argues he was passed over for the position of fire chief in favor of Clack who is White. The suit also alleges he was the subject of several internal investigations based solely on anonymous complaints; a practice many Black current and former members maintain is routinely implemented to unjustly dismiss Black firefighters.
Carter served as president of the Vulcan Blazers — the organization that represents the city’s Black firefighters — from 2004 to 2006. The group’s current president says racial discrimination and animosity against Blacks in the department is systemic.
“As far back as 1987, with the help of the NAACP…we met with the mayor to discuss the issues of institutional racism in the Baltimore City Fire Department…prior to that we had a successful lawsuit proving that the fire department had discriminated,” said Henry Burris, president of the Vulcan Blazers.
The decision in favor of Black firefighters connected to the class action lawsuit Burris alludes to was rendered in 1973, the same year the Vulcan Blazers was formed in order to monitor hiring practices and disciplinary actions of the department in reference to Black firefighters.
Burris, who originally lead the Vulcan Blazers from 1990 to 1992, began his latest tenure with the organization in 2006. He has also sought action by the United States Department of Justice against the fire department and maintains he cannot comment directly about Carter’s lawsuit.
However, he believes Clack, who was highly touted as being “progressive” in the area of diversity when he was hired from his former position in Minneapolis, has been compromised by the city’s two powerful, predominately White fire unions.
“I think he’s been deeply influenced and impacted by the two unions,” Burris said.
“The good ole boy network is surrounding him and the pattern of institutional racism continues.”