Lati­nos poorly rep­re­sented in jobs

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Whit­ney Bryen

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.

Jeremy Pa­passo, Daily Cam­era

Lafayette Fire Depart­ment Lt. Noah Hark­less, fore­ground, and fire­fighter Chris Brown pre­pare iceres­cue gear to put on a firetruck at Sta­tion 1.

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