Diversity important in city workforce

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2005

According to a report requested by Council member Charles Brown and released at a City Council meeting last month, just

13 percent of the 166 men in the Suffolk Fire Department are black, and just 44 of the 171 Suffolk Police Department employees (26 percent) are black. This in a city that is 44 percent black.

Be that as it may, it appears that throughout city government, a good job is being done in seeing to it that the city’s employees reflect the community’s diversity.

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Blacks represent 41 percent of the city’s total workforce, almost

directly in line with the population. What’s more, as was pointed out in Sunday’s story in the

News-Herald, blacks are well represented in the upper echelons of city government, occupying posts ranging from chief of police to director of human resources and the directorships of the departments of parks and recreation and neighborhood development services. That’s encouraging and a sign that the city takes this matter seriously.

There needs to be more black employees, however, particularly on the police force. Police officers probably have more day-to-day direct contract with the citizenry than any other department and having the appropriate racial mix is important in deflecting criticism and making citizens feel more comfortable. Theirs is the face the community sees.

To the city’s credit, however, police recruiting – for any officers, not just black officers – has been difficult in recent years. The force is presently more fully staffed than it has been in recent memory. Filling those positions has been top priority for the department and their efforts have been worthy of praise.

The overall numbers show that the city is serious about equal opportunity employment for all. It doesn’t appear that any special focus on this matter is required. It’s likely that once stability has been created in the police force, we’ll gradually see the police and fire ranks more closely resemble the population as a whole.