Surrounded by community leaders with police, fire and EMS, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart announced an initiative Thursday to attract job candidates to the city’s public safety departments. Specifically, the city is recruiting people of color who live in the city.
New Britain will hold a job fair of sorts at 10 a.m., February 15. Candidates are invited to the New Britain Police Department where they can learn about opportunities.
Diversification is the objective, something Stewart says can be improved within the city.
“We are lacking. We are definitely lacking,” she said.
Demographics from the most recent census show that more than a third (37%) of New Britain residents are Hispanic or Latino, while 11% are African American.
Stewart says there is a benefit in having public safety departments reflect the community it protects.
“It’s an automatic comfort factor,” she explained, “When you see someone who resembles you that’s there to help.”
Tiana Moore, a New Britain resident, agrees with the efforts the city is making.
“I feel like there’s not a lot of opportunities for minorities especially in New Britain. There’s so many who have qualifications,” she said.
Other residents say it’s not only important for this effort to reflect race but also gender.
“I feel more comfortable to speak with a woman, because I’m female,” said Lisa Quinion.
Recruiting female job candidates is among the priorities for New Britain’s Fire Department. According to Chief Raul Ortiz, only 4.5% of their department is female.
The fire department has six current vacancies. It is recruiting, not only for firefighters but also in the fire marshal’s office and fleet and facilities division. Ortiz is hoping the recruitment event helps increase the pool of candidates.
“If we have more people to select from, we can select the best of the best,” Ortiz said.
New Britain’s Police Department has 12 open positions. It is also placing an emphasis on the recruiting event.
“I’m hoping that we’re going to open their eyes to a fantastic career,” said Chief Christopher Chute. “Not only are they helping people within their own community, it’s a good paying job and has great benefits.”
Community leaders say this is a particularly challenging time to recruit police officers. They say, among the challenges, is changing the community perception, something they’re trying to do.
“It is an honorable job,” explained New Britain Latino Coalition President Carmelo Rodriguez. “These are the people that come in when no one is able to come in and save you.”
While New Britain is focusing on recruiting people who are from the city, they say the event on the 15th is open to people of color from other communities as well.