Diversity effort falls short

Getting minorities and women to serve as police and firefighters proves difficult
Andy Ouriel
Aug 10, 2014

SANDUSKY

ouriel@sanduskyregister.com

Well into the 21st century, and Sandusky’s population continues to become more diverse.

But the faces employed by the city's police and fire departments seemingly predate feminism and the civil rights movement.

No noticeable progress has occurred to make the already white- and male-dominated full-time Sandusky safety services roster anymore diverse, according to a Register analysis of local and federal data.

A year ago, the Register published an investigation regarding the downward trend of how few women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities work for the city’s fire and police departments today compared to 10 and 20 years ago.

Fast-forward one year, and the already rock-bottom figures sunk a bit deeper.

Among the most noteworthy 2014 findings, cited from data obtained through a public records request:

• No women work as city firefighters, down from three each in 1993 and 2003 and two in 2013.

• One Hispanic works for the fire department, down from two a year ago.

• The police department’s minorities — three women, two blacks and one Hispanic — remains unchanged from a year ago.

Diversity disappointment

When asked by the Register, several women and minority police officers and firefighters seemed discouraged about the lack of a diverse workforce.

“Yes it does concern me that there are not more minority employees,” Sandusky police Officer Ernesto Hernandez, a Hispanic, told the Register a year ago.

Said black Sandusky firefighter Derrick Shepherd in that same story: “Yes it bothers me. There should be more people of diversity representing the department.”

And longtime Sandusky fire Lt. Toni Schmidt, a woman, who retired within the past year, said, “I really wish more women were interested.”

Last year, city officials told the Register they’d step up efforts to recruit more minorities and engage area students — especially women, blacks and Hispanics — about the benefits of a career in public service.

But their efforts haven't delivered results yet, considering no new blacks, Hispanics or women work for Sandusky police or fire.

City officials pointed toward two main reasons for the lack of diversity:

• Fiscal challenges, highlighted by officials slashing about $1 million from their $16 million everyday operating budget, funding critical services such as fire and police, from earlier this year. The drained budget created many problems, including a hiring freeze in both departments. In fact, through attrition by way of retirements and relocations, Sandusky fire dropped from 53 full-time firefighters a year ago to 48 today.

• Fewer minorities taking a civil service exam, the main gateway to landing a job with Sandusky fire or police. Potential candidates take this test, and commanders usually choose the top one or two candidates — regardless of sex, race and ethnicity — for the sparse openings.

 

Better reflection

Regardless of money woes and hiring standards, city officials seemed concerned about the lack of diversity, including three main city officials — all white men — overseeing staffing:

• Sandusky city manager Eric Wobser: "We are committed to identifying best practices and working with the Sandusky city commission and other local stakeholders to ensure what we are doing all that we can to employ a diverse safety force for the citizens in Sandusky."

• Sandusky police Chief John Orzech: "We need to do a better job of recruiting all qualified candidates that want to work for our agency. Diversity is critical in our profession as it offers our community and department unique perspectives that are needed to reflect the community's' demographics. We strive and will look to improve our recruiting practices not only for minorities but for all qualified candidates that will represent our values and mission."

• Sandusky fire Chief Dave Degnan: "If you have a diverse workforce, males and females and people of different races, that helps you become more diverse in your thinking."

Almost 30 percent of Sandusky's population, totaling 25,000 people or so, consider themselves non-white.

Women, meanwhile, account for more than half of Sandusky’s population.

“Sandusky is a diverse city, and our ability to maintain the goodwill of our citizens involves not only providing quality services but also ensuring that the workforce is representative of the people who live and work in the community,” said Sandusky city commissioner Naomi Twine, a black woman. “The commission is committed to working with city staff to partner with stakeholders, including the local schools and other community partners, to identify how we can create a pipeline of talented, qualified and diverse candidates to apply for future positions with the city of Sandusky.”

There is, however, some optimism.

Of the city's four most recent hires, in the water and building departments, they are all either women or black.

"We have limitations in our ability to hire diverse candidates in the police and fire departments," Wobser said. "But where we have opportunities to hire diverse candidates in other departments, we do."

Comments

IT'S ME

Why not hire the best applicant for the job? why does it have to be based on skin color or gender? That's racist!

SamAdams

I don't care if an Hispanic police officer comes to my aid, or a female firefighter rescues me. What I DO care about is that the police officers and firefighters are qualified to do the job, and that's why I have to agree with It's Me: Hire the best applicant. Period.

I'm somewhat dismayed to hear that the last four hires have been women or black, not because they're women or black but because I wonder if better qualified candidates were skipped over so as to make these hires. If these new hires are, indeed, the top applicants, then good for them and good for us. If not, then yes, that's just as discriminatory as most would like to prohibit.

Oh, well. At least people hired in the water and building departments don't hold my life in their hands like police and fire departments do!

The Big Dog's back

And you also sit in on the interview process for hiring. Wow sam, you really make your rounds. Just curious, how do you know they are the best qualified?

Restless1

Once again the SR is stirring the pot.

Tionterly1942

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✒✒✒✒✒✒ www.Jobs7000.Com

ohioengineer

I also spent my career in a white male dominated profession, namely engineering. Today, despite prodigious efforts, women still make up less than 15% of all engineers and blacks and Hispanics about 5% each - all well below their demographic representation.

So what is the answer? Is it lowering standards? I for one do not want to drive across a bridge or fly on an airplane where the designer got his job in order to meet a quota. On the other hand, if the U.S. is to compete in an ever more technical world, we need to harness all the best minds in our population.

So what is the common factor that keeps women and minorities from pursuing careers in engineering, firefighting and police work? You aren't going to like my answer, as I think plain old-fashioned lack of interest has a lot to do with it. In my case my father was lucky to have finished high school, yet I wanted to be an engineer from an early age. On the other hand, I raised three intelligent daughters who had me for a role model (good, I hope), but despite my encouragement none of them went into engineering.

All professions attract a specific type of personality. There is no way I could be a nurse or a grade school teacher. And the last time I checked white males are severely under represented in both of these professions - yet there is no crying or hand-wringing over this inequity.

Bottom line: we should insure that all society and cultural barriers have been removed from ALL professions. But once we have leveled the playing field, it is time to stand back and let nature run its course. Otherwise, we will be trying to fit square pegs into round holes and causing more problems than we fix.

The Big Dog's back

Most of those jobs back then were gotten by who you knew, not what you knew. This business that the best were hired for the job was hogwash. I saw many a boss's sons or nephews or some other relation get engineering jobs. And they were the most arrogant about their jobs. I wish I knew for sure how you got your job, but I knew what I saw.

knowitall

Engineers usually do not have a problem getting a job. That profession is one that is in demand. As far knowing someone.....yes, that is the way many jobs are gotten. It does not mean the people getting the jobs are not proficient. It just means they know someone who can help. One can fret about it, or one can get their buttocks out and make oneself known.

downthemiddle

Dog.. You're proof of that...

Keep licking preston's boots.

Justme...

Good Post. I don't really understand this headline. According to the article neither the police nor fire had the opportunity to hire in the last year so how did their efforts fall short? And due to attrition in the fire dept, the percent minority actually increased. That said, I am in favor of striving for diversity in the police and fire departments while maintaining high standards.

coasterfan

Enlightening discussion!

2cents's picture
2cents

I prefer my Hispanic house keeper at a hotel rather than a big white body builder. LOL, maybe my wife would not though. Totally agree with you Its and Ohio. : )

Blackberry Phale

We want the best for these jobs, don't we?

Georgeof the jungle

Hey Andy, what the diversity at the Sandusky Register and Tandem Media that owns the Sandusky Register????

From the Grave

They are all equally unqualified.

whattheBucks

Diversity is just another word for rasism

LivinOnTheLake

Once again, the Register prints an article that drips with controversy. Instead of being lazy, why not provide your readers with statistics from other cities the size of Sandusky and how they're doing encouraging more minorities to apply??? Right now, this article has NO context other than to get the City of Sandusky to respond to silliness in your reporting. Give us readers BOTH sides of the story and be balanced and you'd hear a lot less criticism.

downthemiddle

Forty some percent of Americans are on the dole... Why work?

Blackberry Phale

Some people don't get the concept of self respect or a sense of accomplishment. They have no plan to advance, no will to do anything except getting ink and drugging it up.

Informed

And some people work their fingers to the bone for poverty wages.