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Passage of legislation to create Boston Fire Cadet program announced

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Fire Operations

The cadet program would help Boston diversify its Boston Fire Department.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that H. 4919 An Act to Create a Boston Fire Department Cadet Program has received key approval from the Massachusetts Legislature, and will now head to Governor Charlie Baker's desk to be signed into law. Once enacted, this bill would allow Boston to create a cadet program within the Boston Fire Department in an effort to diversify its firefighter force. As part of his legislative agenda, Mayor Walsh first filed the proposal as a Home Rule Petition in January 2019. It was approved by the Boston City Council before reaching the Massachusetts State Legislature.

"The passage of our legislation to create a Boston Fire Department Cadet Program is a victory for our commitment to an equitable Boston. We'll continue to take steps to create opportunities for all Bostonians and ensure our firefighters represent the residents of the city they service," said Mayor Walsh. "Thank you to Representative Chynah Tyler, House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka for your advocacy and support."

"It is imperative that every resident of Boston is offered a fair chance, through an equitable process, to serve our city. Signing this legislation into law is a very valuable step in reducing barriers to civil service and ensuring that these positions are available to all. I look forward to the work ahead in making these quality careers accessible to all of the residents of Boston, especially those that are historically marginalized," said Representative Chynah Tyler. 

If signed into law by Governor Baker, the bill would allow any qualified resident of Boston between the ages of 18 to 25 to be appointed as fire cadet by the Boston Fire Chief. Following the completion of the two-year program and passing the civil service exam, a cadet would then become a firefighter. There are typically two classes of firefighters per year, with roughly 50 members in each class. This bill would limit cadet appointments up to 33.33% of all appointments in a year. The Fire Commissioner will be responsible for deciding when the City of Boston accepts fire cadets, and is responsible for how many cadets can be taken on.

"I thank the Mayor for his tireless efforts in pursuing the cadet legislation that was passed by the Senate today," said Boston Fire Department Commissioner Jack Dempsey. "This legislation gives the Boston Fire Department another tool within its toolbox for its recruitment and hiring efforts. We look forward to working with the City administration and the union to create and implement a model fire cadet program for Boston for the fire service."

"This is a major step forward in ensuring all Boston residents have a chance to become firefighters in the City of Boston. It's important that the voices in the neighborhoods in Boston are heard, and I thank Mayor Walsh and Representative Chynah Tyler for working tirelessly on this bill. I look forward to working with them to continue addressing any challenges ahead," said Darrell Higginbottom, the President of the Boston Society of Vulcans.

Currently, 410 of the 1,474 firefighters in the Boston Fire Department are people of color, representing over 27 percent, including 275 Black firefighters, 120 Hispanic/Latino firefighters and 15 Asian firefighters. There are currently 1,455 men and 19 women firefighters, reinforcing the need to further recruit diverse candidates to serve as active firefighters in the Department.

The legislation is modeled after the Boston Police Department's (BPD) cadet program, which has seen significant success. The BPD 2016 Cadet Class included 30 aspiring police officers, 69% of whom were men and 31% of whom were women. 69% of the class were people of color and 31% were white. In 2018, the Cadet Class had 35 aspiring police officers including 66% men, 34% women, 63% people of color and 37% white. Between both classes languages spoken other than English included: Cantonese, CaboVerdean Creole, French, Haitian Creole, Urdu, Portugese, Spanish and Vietnamese.