Latinos poorly represented in jobs
lafayette» City officials say they have a problem.
All of Lafayette’s paid firefighters are white men, in contrast to every other city-run fire department in Boulder County.
Of Lafayette’s 39 police officers, 32 are white men.
While Latinos make up 18 percent of the city’s population, it has been a struggle, several officials said, to find Latino candidates to fill those jobs, or to serve on Lafayette’s boards and commissions — even its Latino Advisory Board.
There have been efforts to attract minorities to public service, but the current roster still doesn’t come close to mirroring the city’s Latino community.
Members of that community are challenging the city to dedicate more resources to develop inclusive leadership, while at the same time urging Latino residents to answer the call.
“I don’t feel like our community is very well represented, but it’s not entirely the city’s fault,” resident Maribel Alderete said. “It’s up to us to go out there and get noticed and take a stand. One hand feeds the other.”
As Lafayette’s police department prepares to hire three new officers early this year, Chief Rick Bashor said additional funding for training could move the needle in the next year, but he promised nothing.
City officials and members of the community agree: A good portion of Latino immigrants don’t view law enforcement as an honorable profession.
“Obviously, not all Mexican police are sketchy,” said Lee Shainis, a co-founder and executive director of Boulder County-based Intercambio. “But a lot of immigrants here are used to law enforcement in their country being ineffective, corrupt and not to be trusted. It takes a lot of effort, education and face-to-face outreach to reverse that way of thinking.”
Recruiting will be a big part of that effort, for the benefit of the community and the officers, Bashor said. With diversity will come trust.
“It legitimizes the department,” he said.
By paying for training, the city is taking an important step toward attracting recruits from local immigrant and Latino communities, Shainis said.
This year the department will get an extra $200,000 to support pay and benefits for the three new positions.
The budget includes an additional $17,000 to send all or some of the recruits to police academy training, as a way to attract minority candidates.
The funding allows the department to broaden the applicant pool to include qualified candidates who lack the means to pay for their own training and certification. Larger departments can afford to train its officers, but Lafayette has traditionally hired only those who come precertified.
Lafayette Fire Department Lt. Noah Harkless, foreground, and firefighter Chris Brown prepare icerescue gear to put on a firetruck at Station 1.