By Alice Gainer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Commissioner of the FDNY appeared in federal court Friday.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, a judge ordered him to address the punishment of nine firefighters who were suspended after sharing racist messages online.

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“It’s been going on for a long time. It frustrates us,” said Captain Dellon Morgan, a 20-year member of the FDNY and president of the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of Black firefighters.

“It doesn’t stop when you get promoted. So seeing them not value you, respect as an officer, that’s bothersome,” Morgan said.

The group is a party to a 2007 federal lawsuit alleging the FDNY engaged in discriminatory hiring practices against Black and Hispanic recruits.

As a result, the test for new recruits was changed, the city agreed to fork over backpay and a federal monitor has been in place for the past 10 years.

The judge overseeing the implementation hauled FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro into court to answer questions about the suspensions of nine firefighters without pay.

Punishment ranged from a few days to six months in connection with a string of racist messages and memes shared on their phones.

The frustrated judge wanted to know why he had to read about the suspensions in The New York Times and why it wasn’t shared with the court.

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“We were unable to do it because of a regulation and in the future, going forward we certainly will. We have nothing to hide on these cases and it’s actually important to us to get that out, that there will be discipline for folks that violate our rules,” Nigro said.

Nigro acknowledged that, while the department has hired more people of color, inclusion remains the most difficult piece.

“The department is now three times as diverse as it was when I started. But if people that are brought in don’t feel welcome, I think, and the judge said it right, how do we get more people to decide to make the fire department a career,” said Nigro.

Morgan said he does believe Nigro will move faster to make progress.

“We’ve been in this place for a long time and I think everybody’s tired of it. It’s time to change,” Morgan said.

The next court date for an update on the orders was scheduled for mid-December.

A department spokesperson called the suspensions the most severe punishments ever handed down in the FDNY.

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The department said, currently, 8% of firefighters are Black, more than 13% are Hispanic, 2% are Asian and 75% are white.

Alice Gainer