LIMA — It began as a conversation about how to encourage greater minority participation in the Lima Police Department, and after months of research and dialogue with representatives from both higher education institutions and city and county safety services, the Lima Area Public Safety Diversity Minority Task Force is preparing to take its message to the community.
“We’ve been meeting once a month at Rhodes State with their team and educators as well as (Lima Police and Fire) chiefs,” 6th Ward Councilman Derry Glenn said. “We’re working on this situation.”
These monthly meetings grew out of a report issued by Glenn, task force chairman John Bowker and vice-chairwoman Vickie Shurelds, outlining what they saw as issues with bridging the gap between law enforcement and the minority community in Lima.
“I’m a strong supporter of the local police,” Bowker said. “But I do think they need to be more representative of the communities they are policing.”
To help address that disparity, the task force is working with Rhodes State College and Apollo Career Center to give increased availability to and promotion of educational opportunities available for public safety related jobs, along with working to change how the community views those already in public safety.
“I am advancing the terminology ‘community guardians’ for anyone wearing a uniform, whether it’s police, fire, EMS, corrections, court officers, school officers, all of them,” Bowker said. “We’re hoping to change hearts by changing our vocabulary.”
Another element is to promote careers in these fields in the churches, with black pastors encouraging congregants to pursue these jobs if so inclined. Shurelds is hopeful that by encouraging more minority participation in safety services, it will encourage more community collaboration overall.
“We’re looking for ways to learn how to work together,” she said. “That’s probably been the largest piece that’s been missing. We’ve never really learned how to collaborate.”
As the task force continues to work to make careers in these fields more attractive and available to minority candidates, Bowker is optimistic that Lima will see positive changes as a result.
“Folks here in Lima have good hearts, and this is one time when they’re coming together to address a community concern,” he said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.