We’ve seen again and again what can happen when the makeup of a city’s police force doesn’t match the diversity of its residents. Many cities are trying to hire officers of color.
But what about a city’s accountants, engineers, and top administrators?
Sensing a need to diversify its 540-person full-time workforce, the City of Bloomington recently launched the Diversity Enhancement Group (DEG) initiative in partnership with the Bloomington-Normal NAACP. The goal is to work with community agencies to get more women and people of color to apply for city jobs, especially professional, technical, and leadership positions.
“By cooperating and collaborating with the advocacy groups in the community, they can help us find out where these people are,” said Michael Hurt, the city’s talent acquisition and development manager. “They have a better knowledge of it than we do. They’ll help us concentrate our efforts and maybe come up with a broader pool of candidates.”
About 15 percent of the city’s employees are minorities, Hurt said. That lags the city’s overall population, which is around 27 percent black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, biracial, or otherwise diverse, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2017. Women are also underrepresented among top city administration, Hurt said.
The goal is to increase hiring of diverse candidates by 20 percent by 2022, he said.
People of color have historically been reluctant to apply for jobs with the city because “there’s a perception that they won’t even get an interview,” said Quincy Cummings, president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP.
“If there’s a problem like this and it’s not being actively addressed, it’s telling people in the community that city government just doesn’t care. And what it tells people on the outside is, maybe we should go to Chicago, or Indianapolis, or Des Moines, or St. Louis, where there are not only more people who look like me, but where I also believe I have a fair shot,” Cummings said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.
It may also push young people away from the community, he said.
“They’ll go to college and won’t come back. And we’ll have an exodus away from our community and it’s based on that thought of, ‘Well, there’s nothing here for me.’”
Discussions about the Diversity Enhancement Group first began in 2015. Cummings said proponents obtained workforce data from the city that demonstrated a need. People of color were well represented in departments like Public Works, but not in others, he said.
“When we think about recruitment of minorities, we always talk about police. And we do want to have more minority and female representation with local police and fire departments. But we don’t want to be one-dimensional. We want to see minority and female representation throughout city government,” Cummings said.
“That will become more inspirational to young people. They’ll see someone doing that job and think, ‘Maybe I can go into public administration (too),’” he added. “It’s not just to address a today issue. It’s to address a tomorrow issue as well.”
The Diversity Enhancement Group will be comprised of members of community agencies. Interested groups are invited to contact Hurt at email@example.com or (309) 434-2468.
You can also listen to the full interview:
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.