ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - New figures show employees of the Anchorage police and fire departments remain disproportionately white in comparison with the city’s population despite efforts leaders say they have made to improve diversity.
Data released by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration Wednesday show the city’s population is 64% white, while the police department is 79% white and the fire department is 88% white, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.
About 67% of the city’s working age population is white.
The police department has 4% fewer white officers among its force of 442 than in 2016, when Berkowitz’s administration said it was trying to recruit more diverse employees.
The Anchorage Fire Department’s 395 employees including nine Alaska Native or American Indian members, or 2% of the department, compared to 13% of Anchorage’s population.
Four fire department employees are black, or 1% of the department, compared to 9% of the population.
Among the fire department’s 327 firefighters and emergency medical responders, two are black and eight are Alaska Native or American Indian.
Berkowitz and Police Chief Justin Doll said the police department needs the help of residents to improve diversity.
Doll said without various groups in the community encouraging their members to pursue careers in law enforcement, “no amount of recruiting is going to make that happen.”
Police salaries begin at $71,000 annually, while new firefighters can earn up to $100,000.
Anchorage Fire Chief Chief Jodie Hettrick said the department plans to launch a focused recruiting effort in advance of its next applicant test with a goal of attracting more women and members of minority communities.
A more representative workforce of firefighters and paramedics would better serve Anchorage residents, but the department’s recruitment efforts have been hindered by financial limitations, Hettrick said.
“Not as an excuse, but the history of how we got here and why we’re not in better shape is because we haven’t been able to put resources toward it,” she said.
Anchorage’s fire and police departments both have been sued as a result of past racial discrimination claims.
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