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Safety Officials: Cleveland Needs More Minorities And Women In Police, Fire, and EMS Units

WCPN stock photo of Cleveland Police, at 2014 Labor Day parade (pic: Brian Bull)
WCPN stock photo of Cleveland Police, at 2014 Labor Day parade (pic: Brian Bull)

The latest breakdown shows white males make up the majority of personnel in all three divisions.

Some differences are quite striking, such as in the city fire department. There, only five women work out of 736 personnel.

And for police, one-third of the current force is black or Hispanic, with the remainder largely white.

So Assistant Director of Public Safety Barry Withers says they’ll work to establish a permanent recruitment team that’ll seek qualified candidates, to make the city’s safety units more representative of the communities they serve.

“The team would operate year round, visiting schools, churches, community centers, and other places where potential candidates would be found,” Withers explains. “I think it’s critical that if anything happens in this community there is an opportunity for us to be involved, because police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) are a part of the community.”

One concern was how to assure that candidates well-suited for police work are hired.

Ward 9 City Councilman Kevin Conwell referred to last year’s incident where a rookie cop shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was brandishing an air pellet gun. The officer had previously been deemed unfit for duty and had resigned from the Independence police department before joining Cleveland’s force.

Conwell pressed public safety officials on recruitment and screening of future cops.

“How are we training the officers to recruit the right police officers? So that we won’t get a guy like from Independence?” Conwell asked. “And your recruitment department should have had lessons learned also, so that we won’t’ end up doing the same issues and concerns that we’ve have before, recruiting this guy from Independence.”

Public Safety Director Michael McGrath replied that at Mayor Frank Jackson’s direction, a revised application process is now in place to flag problems like these in the future.

Overall, the City Council was receptive to the proposal for a permanent recruitment team, though no public comments or immediate actions were taken. The matter of further diversifying Cleveland’s safety and emergency units will be addressed in later meetings.