Local News

Raleigh Leaders Address Minority Recruitment In Special Meeting

Posted January 24, 2006

— Raleigh city leaders want to establish a partnership with Shaw University as part of a plan to recruit more minorities to serve with the city's firefighters.

A special City Council task force is looking to actively change the makeup of the Raleigh Fire Department, of which only 16 percent of the force is made up of minorities and women.

"We know we have a problem, so I say 'No more business as usual,'" Raleigh City Councilman James West said Tuesday.

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said that although progress has been made over the past four training academies -- minority and female hires stand at nearly 27 percent -- more needs to be done.

In addition to partnering with Shaw University to recruit candidates, city leaders will look to minority firefighters to take a more active role with recruiting at the high school level.

In the past, the department has relied on word-of-mouth to recruit firefighters, but city leaders will also look for innovative proposals from the city's new fire chief, John McGrath, immediately after he begins in February.

Another change the city hopes to make is to immediately secure qualified candidates, even if it means getting them on the city's payroll before the training academy begins in the fall.

"I just hope the mayor and Council commit themselves to changing what has happened in the past," said Wayne Burton, a retired captain with the Raleigh Fire Department.

After serving 30 years on the force, Burton says he believes the minority applicants are there, but are not accepted.

Leaders said now is a good opportunity to make gains on diversity at the fire department. Typically, the turnover rate is about 12 positions each year, but a new fire station set to open in North Raleigh means an addition 15 firefighters will need to be hired.

Tuesday's City Council committee meeting comes just a little more than a week after members of the three black organizations alleged that the city of Raleigh should do a better job with diversity and inclusion in the fire department and other ranks of city government.

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