Mayor Walsh Announces Federal Court Filing to Protect Consent Decree on Diversity in Police and Fire Departments

Walsh follows through on Executive Order commitment to actively oppose effort to dissolve order which seeks to increase representation of African Americans among police officers and firefighters

Syracuse, N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the City of Syracuse submitted arguments in U.S. District Court, Northern District, Tuesday, opposing a United States Department of Justice (DOJ) motion to dissolve a federal order permitting diversity hiring practices in the City’s police and fire departments.

The Consent Decree Walsh seeks to protect is a judicial order resulting from an agreement between the City of Syracuse, New York State, Onondaga County, and the DOJ that originally went into effect in 1980, and remains in effect today. The Decree permits the City to adopt hiring practices to increase diversity within the police and fire department without violating New York Civil Service Law.

The DOJ filed a motion in the U.S. District Court asking the court to end the Consent Decree on September 4, 2020.  The DOJ’s motion seeks to dissolve, or end, the Consent Decree based, in part, on the fact that new civil service examinations have been developed. However, the DOJ made no showing that the long term goal of the Consent Decree had been achieved.

In a declaration included with the City’s arguments submitted to the court, Mayor Walsh emphasized the importance of maintaining the Consent Decree to advance his efforts to increase diversity in the police and fire departments:

“Notwithstanding that my Administration has made progress toward increasing the diversity within the police and fire departments, it remains apparent, based on a review of each department’s current demographic data, that departments’ numbers still fall well short of the goals established by the Consent Decree. Thus, it is evident that the protections provided, and recruitment tools authorized, by the Consent Decree—including the legal authorization to apply a racial preference in hiring decisions—should remain in place until the objectives of the Consent Decree are met.”

In addition to the Mayor’s Executive Order, the Syracuse Common Council approved a Resolution on Oct. 13 memorializing the Council’s opposition to the DOJ’s efforts to dissolve the Consent Decree. U.S. District Judge David Hurd is scheduled to hear oral arguments from the City and DOJ on Nov. 13.