Seventeen police and fire departments in 12 Massachusetts cities and towns fall short of the race-based hiring goals ordered 30 years ago by federal courts, with many of the departments struggling to keep up with the fast-growing minority populations they serve, says the Boston Globe. Chelsea, Lawrence, and Holyoke — with minority populations ranging from 45 to 65 percent — remain the furthest from the goal of two mid-1970s consent decrees, which called for police and fire departments to reach “parity” with the black and Hispanic populations in their cities. The police and fire departments in those three cities are about 20 percent minority.
The consent decrees, which originally covered 151 police and fire departments, have been in effect during a time of great demographic change in Massachusetts. From 1980 to 2000, the portion of blacks and Hispanics in the state has doubled. The court orders focused on increasing the number of blacks and Hispanics in the departments but did not take into account Asians, whose numbers in Massachusetts more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2000. While some officials point out the difficulty of keeping up with their fast-changing population, backers of the consent decrees argue that a more diverse population should provide a large pool of prospective minority employees.