Laurel firefighters revolt after promotion controversy

A U.S. Justice Department complaint filed by two Laurel firefighters has sparked a firestorm within the department.

Forty-six firefighters including lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs have signed a letter demanding changes to the department's promotional practices.

In the letter to Mayor Melvin Mack, the fire chief and the Laurel Civil Service Commission, they're requesting written criteria for promotions.

The controversy began when two black firefighters filed a Justice Department complaint after being denied a chance to apply for a battalion chief's position. In the wake of the complaint, battalion chief Joey Blackwell was placed in an interim position.

Mack says Blackwell's current post is not a demotion.

"There's no such word as demoted," Mack says. "Right now he's interim battalion chief. By no means will he be demoted. He will be back in his original position or something. By no means will he be terminated. He is an excellent firefighter."

7 ON YOUR SIDE attempted to contact several of the petitioning firefighters for reaction. But no one wished to comment.