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Minority Leaders Push For More Diversity Within Raleigh Police, Fire Depts.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Earlier this week, leaders of the African-American community expressed concerns about the number of blacks at the Raleigh Fire Department. They want the city to create a program for the fire department similar to one the police department already has.

Fire Chief Jane Perlov made minority recruitment a priority when she arrived. At the same time, many acknowledge even the police department can do better.

"We are working locally and nationally," said Raleigh Police Capt. John Annis.

In 2001, the Raleigh Police Department doubled the amount of recruiters and actively began recruiting minorities. In four years, the number of black police officers increased by 10 percent, Hispanics by 50 percent, and there are also now 25 percent more female cops on the streets.

Still, the police force is not yet a reflection of the community. Thirty percent of Raleigh residents are black, compared to just 16 percent of police officers.

"I think that shows we have work to do," said Raleigh/Apex NAACP president Michael Leach. "That shows we need to form partnerships with organizations if the city is having difficulty recruiting minorities."

Leach believes the police department has taken great steps in hiring practices, but he wants more. Police and city leaders said it's not something that can happen overnight, because of competition nationwide and low vacancy rates.

"It takes a much longer time to change the complexion of the force because once an officer is hired they intend to be here for 30 years," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

Police administrators are the first to acknowledge they are still working on recruitment. They stress they are not only looking for a diverse group of applicants, but qualified ones.

"It takes time," said Annis. "It's something you have to work on incrementally. We are making progress, but we don't feel like we've arrived."

Raleigh's only black City Council member, James West, told WRAL he appreciates the commitment of the police force, but he believes that there should be an even bigger push to have the police force mirror the community. He has asked the city manager to look at the numbers of other police and fire departments to see how Raleigh fares in comparison.


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