Brotherhood: Elimination of residency rule could have "detrimental" impact on diversity

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by Elizabeth Fay

MILWAUKEE -- In a show of support, the president of the Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters Everett Cocroft joined Mayor Tom Barrett in his efforts to keep Milwaukee's residency rule.

Cocroft represents 40 active African American Milwaukee firefighters and feels diversity is in trouble.

"We believe lifting the residency would have a detrimental effect to the city's goals and desires to have a diverse workforce because frankly, outside of the City of Milwaukee there is little, if any diversity," says Cocroft.

Dave Seager represents the nearly 850 members of Milwaukee Professional Firefighters local 215.

He says there is currently a problem with diversity.  Recent demographics show the Milwaukee Fire Department is 81% Caucasian  and 97% male.

However, Seager rejects the idea the residency rule impacts diversity. He points to Madison's fire department.

"They have an extremely diverse department in the Madison Fire Department. Their residency restrictions were relieved two to three years ago. It has nothing to do with residency relief or residency restrictions whatsoever," says Seager.

Seager backs the governor's plan to lift the rule. He argues life changes after firefighters join the team and they should have the freedom to move.

"As time moves on, we find a spouse. We do have kids. We come across some fundamental decisions in our life. Those are decisions that are predicated on the well being of our families."

Cocroft says living within city limits is a condition of the job firefighters must accept. "When you sign on the dotted line, you got to keep your word. It's a commitment," says Cocroft.

Changes to the residency requirement are included in the state's budget proposal, so state lawmakers will decide this issue for Milwaukee.

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