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N.Y. Fire Department to Begin Diversity Effort

April 05, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Using television ads and billboards, the city will launch a multimillion-dollar effort to diversify its predominantly white, male fire department, officials said.

White men make up more than 93% of the Fire Department of New York's 11,112-member force, according to figures from December. The department has 300 blacks, 374 Latinos and 30 women.

"Clearly, we have a long way to go," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said during a City Council committee hearing this week.

The department has hired 620 firefighters since Sept. 11. Twelve of the 343 firefighters who died Sept. 11 were black, another 12 were Latino and all were men.

Scoppetta said the department would spend several million dollars in government and private funds on the effort to hire more women and minorities as firefighters. The program will be launched as early as June.

The message would be carried on television and billboards and by organizations such as the Urban League and the Harlem Chamber of Commerce. Firefighters would distribute posters, fliers and other information at colleges, churches and high schools, Scoppetta said.

Theodore Holmes, president of the International Assn. of Black Professional Firefighters, favors any program to increase diversity but said minority recruiting campaigns can fail if they are not constantly maintained.

"It's about time. Given their numbers, I would certainly be in support of it," said Holmes, a chief in the Jacksonville, Fla., fire department. "But if you don't have the intention of changing the complexion, both male and female, of your department, then it's lip service."

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