For the first time, two black men are being promoted simultaneously into high-ranking positions.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The city is preparing for the first time to promote two black men into high-ranking positions in the fire department.
Fred Harris, safety service director, will perform the swearing-in ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday in city hall.
Firefighter Alfred Brown Jr. will be promoted to lieutenant, and Lt. Orneil C. Heller will be sworn in as captain.
Another firefighter, Paul F. Lamosek, who is white, will be promoted to lieutenant during the ceremony. He is 37 and in his 11th year with the department.
Harris said this is the first time that two blacks are being promoted to those positions in the fire department at the same time.
"I think it's a big step forward for the city," he noted.
Swearing-in: It's also noteworthy that a black safety service director is performing the swearing-in, Harris said.
"I know that's history," he explained with a laugh.
Heller, 38, said he's proud of the promotion but doesn't think it's that big of a deal.
"I know the color of my skin won't put out a fire," he said, explaining that the promotion isn't so much about race as it is job performance. "I want to be a good captain."
Heller has been with the department nearly 15 years, and Brown, 37, has been there about 11 years.
In the past few months, Jeff Cole was promoted in the police department's detective bureau to sergeant.
The promotion of blacks to top posts in the police and fire departments speaks well for the city, Harris said, especially since race relations have been the topic of recent community meetings, a forum and a protest.
Mayor Hank Angelo has conducted two community breakfasts to gauge public opinion about the state of race relations in Warren.
An outspoken group of black citizens protested outside the Municipal Justice Building in recent weeks and held a forum afterward. Those in the group contend the city has a problem with police brutality and continues to demand that something be done.
Training: Diversity training for all police officers is scheduled for this month.
Interim Fire Chief James Nutt has asked the local NAACP to supply names of black males who might be interested in becoming firefighters.
The city is looking to fill positions in both departments, which were left short staffed after layoffs were recalled and some personnel did not return.
Firefighters took a two-part civil service test to qualify for the promotions. Scores for a written portion and assessment were considered, along with seniority, Harris said.
Commission member John DiCenso said the three-member panel was to meet Wednesday but instead will likely gather next week to certify test results.