(KANSAS CITY, Kan., AP) — Kansas City fire departments on both sides of the state line say they are working hard to improve diversity in their ranks, but for some reason women and minorities aren’t lining up for career opportunities with better-than-average pay.
At the most recent graduation of new Kansas City, Kansas, firefighters, there was only one woman and no African-Americans in the graduating class of 26.
That was troubling for Mayor Mark Holland, who told The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/RR7YeE) he wonders what can be done to recruit candidates who more closely reflect the community they will serve.
“Our kids should be clamoring for these jobs,” said Holland, who noted that a starting firefighter’s salary is one and a half times the median income for Wyandotte County. “It they’re not, then we have a recruiting problem.”
Fire departments nationwide struggle to attract minority and female candidates. That’s partly because the lack of diversity creates the impression among inner-city children that the fire service is not a viable job opportunity for them, said James Garrett, a spokesman for the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department.
The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department is nearly 14 percent black and 13 percent female, with Hispanics comprising a little more than 5 percent of the department. The city’s overall population, according to the latest census figures, is about 30 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic.
The Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department’s makeup is 7 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic and 5 percent female, with 12 percent listed as multiracial. The city’s population is 27 percent black and 28 percent Hispanic.
Both Kansas City fire departments have tried multiple ways to attract minority applicants, including advertising on the radio and in newspapers targeting predominantly minority audiences. They also have advertised on city buses and placed billboards in selected neighborhoods, with little success.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Craig Duke, a deputy KCK fire chief. “It’s very, very hard for us to understand why we cannot get our department to be more reflective of the community it serves.”