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Mayor Ginther Emphasizes Diversity As He Greets Latest Class Of Columbus Fire Recruits

 Mayor Ginther speaking to a class of fire recruits
Nick Evans
Mayor Ginther speaking to a class of fire recruits

Mayor Andrew Ginther greeted the class of 40 recruits in a classroom at the fire academy on Columbus’ Southside. His "good afternoon" was got a booming response from all of the recruits.

Eighteen of the recruits are women or people of color, and Ginther said emphasizing diversity is important as the fire department’s responsibilities shift.

“Because you’re coming into a crisis, you’re coming into a chaotic scene," Ginther explains. "And so to be able to empathize, connect and deescalate situations is critically important, not just for police officers but for firefighters and paramedics as well.”

Fire officials said in recent years the prevalence of emergency medical calls have significantly outpaced their calls to put out fires. That means the city is seeking out recruits with a broader range of experience.

“We need to be looking for different types of candidates with different types of skillsets. Do we need to be looking in different places? Public health. Social work, other areas and backgrounds that we think could help,” Ginther said.

Still as Columbus tries to boost diversity in the public safety ranks, Ginther acknowledges that may be a tougher sell when it comes to policing.

“There’s an additional barrier some folks feel with respect with going into law enforcement, the additional challenges, the community’s fear, trust, the relationship with law enforcement, but we’re making good progress there,” Ginther said. “Some of those barriers are not the same barriers that the division of fire has.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.