Group aims to recruit minorities

WARREN – A committee formed to help the city better recruit minority workers for its fire and police departments is recommending doing away with a hiring requirement that calls for firefighters to be certified paramedics.

The Minority Recruitment Committee, noting that the fire department has no EMS / paramedic program, explained that the requirement limits the city’s pool of potential candidates, “thereby also limiting the potential pool of minorities from which the city can hire.”

The report also states that the prerequisite “appears to be counterproductive” to the city’s goal of recruiting minorities.

Rather than a requirement for hiring, the committee suggested listing paramedic certification under the bonus category.

The committee presented its recommendations in a written report to the Warren Civil Service Commission on Wednesday.

The focus of the committee, which met for the first time March 6, is to explore better options for recruiting, selecting and retaining minority employees in the fire and police departments, with an emphasis on recruiting female firefighters.

The committee found that it is “ironic” that a fire department employee is required to perform as a firefighter but not required to receive state firefighter certification before being hired; however, an employee is not required to perform as a paramedic but is required to receive paramedic certification.

“I agree that requiring someone to be certified for a program that we don’t even have just doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point,” Councilman Eddie Colbert said. “You’re putting an additional hiring requirement on someone that isn’t even part of their job description.”

Officials have said they need to do a better job of recruiting minority candidates.

The police department employs four women and seven black employees. The last female was hired in 1992 and will be eligible for retirement as early as 2017.

If no other women are hired, the police department could be absent any female presence on its work force by then. The last black worker was hired in 2012; however, before that the most recent hiring of an African-American was in 1992.

The fire department, which has never had a female firefighter, has four black employees. The last African-American was hired in 1992. Based on projected retirements, the fire department could also be left with no minority representation by 2017.

The recruitment phase addresses notification and application processes and candidate qualifications.

The committee noted that the city most commonly uses newspaper ads to announce job openings. The city also places notifications on inserts in customers’ water bills, and relies on word of mouth. However, members agreed these methods target the general population, as opposed to targeting a specific minority group, and typically attract the same segment of individuals already in the work force.

The committee also suggested adding an electronic application option for candidates.

The committee is made up of two representatives each from the fire department, police department and mayor’s office; and one each from city council and the civil service commission; and a community organizer.

Commission members said they will review the report and likely discuss it at their meeting next month.

Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa declined to comment on the report, explaining he hasn’t yet had a chance to review it.