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Firefighter group decries probe

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Local,Luke Broadwater

Baltimore City?s black firefighters organization is objecting to Mayor Sheila Dixon?s order that certain firefighters retake promotional exams in the wake of cheating allegations.

"I don?t agree with it," said Henry Burris, president of the Vulcan Blazers. "Those people who are accused are innocent. This investigation was flawed."

Dixon on Friday instructed the fire department to readminister the promotional exams for captains and lieutenants given on June 2, after City Inspector General Hilton Green concluded that the exam?s results were compromised.

"I was extremely disappointed when Inspector General Green confirmed that the fire department promotional exam was compromised," Dixon said in a statement. "The integrity and long-term credibility of the fire department is at stake. There must be no doubt about the qualifications of our fire officers."

The test will be readministered March 15 to any firefighters not suspected of cheating who wish to retake it. No disciplinary decision about the six suspected cheaters has been made, said Sterling Clifford, Dixon's spokesman.

"In reviewing the study material of all five top-scoring African Americans who took the examination it was revealed that they had the actual examination for 2001 in their possession, which they were using as a study guide," Green wrote. "... When questioned as to how the five acquired the 2001 examination, their responses were deceptive and indirect and some bordered on being unprofessional in that they raised their voices when this question was asked."

Burris said the investigation was biased and racist in inception because the city started it only after black firefighters received the highest exam scores. The leaders of Baltimore?s firefighter unions complained that the exams were leaked.

"Studying from previous tests is not against protocol," Burris said. "The investigators listened to people who were angry that they weren?t successful on that test."

Dixon said she?s putting in place new security procedures for the test, including assigned seating, new test monitors, increased standards for subjectmatter experts and regulated access to old tests.

Burris said white firefighters have cheated on promotional tests for years without reprisals, while black firefighters are being persecuted for succeeding on the exams.

"I hope these guys sue the fire department," he said.

"This is going to end up in court."

lbroadwater@baltimoreexaminer.com

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